Topeka Twenty-five Kansas House members, including TerriLois Gregory, Baldwin City, and Connie O’Brien, Tonganoxie, have agreed to sponsor a proposed "personhood" amendment to the state constitution to ban abortion and are close to introducing it, the leader of a group pursuing the measure said Friday.
Proponents of the measure face resistance from some fellow abortion opponents as well as abortion rights supporters. The measure in Kansas is similar to an abortion ban rejected last year by Mississippi voters, and Kansans for Life, the anti-abortion group with perhaps the most influence at the Statehouse, worries that a push for an immediate ban will backfire on the movement.
The proposal would amend the state constitution's Bill of Rights, to declare that Kansas guarantees "the inalienable rights" of every person, starting with fertilization of the human egg. The Personhood Kansas Committee, the Wichita-area group advocating the measure, sees it as a potential challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court establishing a right to an abortion.
"We're at a point, 40 years into this, that there shouldn't be any confusion about what's in there, in the mother's womb," said committee Chairman Bruce Garren. "Maybe in 1973, we thought it was a blob of tissue."
Freshman Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican, began circulating the proposal among his colleagues when legislators opened their session Monday. Garren said Friday that another two-dozen members had joined him and submitted the measure to the House, so that it could be introduced, probably next week.
Two-thirds majorities in both chambers would have to adopt the measure by two-thirds majorities for it to go to a statewide vote. Garber's proposal would put it on the ballot in the Aug. 7 primary, when approval by a simple majority of voters would add it to the constitution.
In Mississippi, nearly 55 percent of the voters in the state's November general election rejected the "personhood" ballot measure there. Colorado voters rejected similar proposals in 2008 and 2010.
Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the proposed amendment is the most extreme measure abortion opponents could pursue this year. She said it's broad enough to ban common forms of birth control and even fertility treatments.
"Legislators that sponsor and vote for personhood legislation should be prepared to stand with a class of very, very extreme religious zealots," she said. "These are zealots who stand in direct opposition to Kansas citizens' most basic elements of personal privacy and freedom."