Letter: No comfort in legal opinion

To the Editor:

I read with interest the recent article about Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s opinion on the issue of abortion.  Schmidt, who is a supporter of a “Yes” vote on the pending constitutional amendment, sought to allay fears that the measure could force women to carry unviable pregnancies to term.  Given the language of the amendment, however, voters should not put too much stock in his conclusion. 

Having drafted dozens of opinions in the same office from 1979 to 1986 (though none on abortion), I can state several things with certainty.  First, attorney general’s opinions do not have the force of law, something Kansas courts have said emphatically and repeatedly.  Second, the opinion states only what the law is now.  If, several months from now a bill outlawing all abortions is passed by Republican-dominated legislature, the current opinion will be of no validity.  Finally, no opinion, however well written, can anticipate all of the medical issues that only a woman’s doctor can pass judgment on. 

I believe Derek Schmidt to have fulfilled his office honorably over the last 12 years, and do not doubt his integrity.  Still, I also do not doubt that, should the amendment pass and he be elected governor, there is a great chance that abortions will be completely banned in Kansas and the “Protect Them Both” mantra will be exposed as empty rhetoric.  Only a “No” vote on the amendment can prevent that unfortunate result.   

Jeff Southard,



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