Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Sen. Ethan Corson, Rep. Charlotte Esau and Rep. Stephanie Clayton, are scheduled to send updates this week.
Below is the submission from Democratic State Rep. Clayton, who represents District 19.
Much of my work in the legislature has centered around the Federal and State Affairs committee, and this past Friday, the committee held a hearing on the controversial HCR 5003: the constitutional amendment on abortion.
To have a hearing on a bill that is not necessary to the function of core government this early in the session is highly unusual, and gives me cause for concern.
To provide context for this legislation, in April of 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court released the Hodes v. Nauser decision, which stated that a woman had a right to bodily autonomy as is stated in the bill of rights.
This decision means that, as things currently stand, Kansas citizens who can get pregnant have the Constitutional right to bodily autonomy even if Roe v Wade is repealed at the National level.
Changing the Kansas Constitution is a difficult undertaking with a complicated process. The bill must first receive a ⅔ majority in both the House and the Senate. Then, the amendment goes on the ballot, where a simple majority vote would strip Kansans of their constitutional rights.
As the bill is currently written, the ballot language would go on in the August 2022 election, when there is minimal turnout, and low engagement from unaffiliated voters, because the only elections that take place during that time are to choose party nominees for state offices.
This August ballot concerns me, because if legislation is good, we would want all to see it and to vote on it. Indeed, the tagline used by the supporters of this bill is “let the people vote.”
But, if the intent is to allow a public vote on ballot language for a fundamental change to our constitution in an obscure election with low turnout, what is meant by “the people”? Which people?
During the hearing, power was mentioned. The proponents of the bill mentioned the need for power to be restored to the legislature, instead of the courts. I heartily disagree. The power for you to make personal decisions should never lie with me, your legislator. The power should always lie with you, the citizens.
This bill is, above all, about power, and rights. Our constitution gives us those rights, and our rights include the power to make decisions without the government meddling in our private lives. Our rights should never be subject to a vote of the people.
As your representative, I will always fight to make sure that your constitutional rights are protected. Now, more than ever before, do we need to stand up for our constitution, our privacy, and our power over our own decisions, as citizens of Kansas, and the United States of America.
Thank you for allowing me to serve.