Capitol Update: Sen. Dinah Sykes on opposing Kansas abortion amendment

"The amendment is not necessary to allow the state to regulate abortion or keep women safe. The extremes the amendment allows are too dangerous to approve at the ballot box next August," said Democratic State Sen. Dinah Sykes in her Capitol Update column. Above, Sykes at the Post's 2020 candidate forum.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Brett Parker, Rep. Cindy Neighbor and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Democratic State Sen. Dinah Sykes, who represents District 21.

On January 28th, I joined ten of my colleagues in the Kansas Senate in voting against one of the most extreme, unnecessary proposals this state has ever seen. While we may not all agree on abortion, Kansans know that it is better when a woman’s private decisions are made with her family, her faith, and her physician, not politicians in Topeka.

The constitutional amendment in question is in response to a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling which found a right to abortion in our state’s constitution, and required the Legislature to prove a compelling state interest in its regulation of this safe, common medical procedure.

During debate on the Senate floor, champions of this amendment repeatedly claimed – and will continue to claim in your mailboxes and at your doorstep – that it is necessary because otherwise, abortion in Kansas will be entirely unregulated. This is simply not true.

As with all medical procedures, the state can and should regulate abortion to ensure patient safety. States with similar constitutional protections continue to have gestational age abortion bans, informed consent and parental consent laws, restrictions on the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and stringent safety requirements for abortion providers and clinics.

The amendment is not necessary to allow the state to regulate abortion or keep women safe. The extremes the amendment allows are too dangerous to approve at the ballot box next August.

The power granted to the Legislature by this amendment allows our state government to ban abortion in all cases. If this amendment is adopted, the Legislature could force women who are raped, are victims of incest, or face life-threating complications to continue pregnancies.

Some of my colleagues have promised never to wield this power. Do you trust the promises of legislators and special interest groups who advocate removing rights never to create legislation that denies access to medical care that could save your life?

During debate in the House and Senate this year, several representatives expressed their intention to end abortion entirely in Kansas – not through universal childcare policies, comprehensive sex education, or expansion of contraceptive access, which would reduce abortion rates in our state – but by banning it outright.

Kansans do not support an outright ban on abortion in all circumstances because Kansans understand that bans are extreme, dangerous, and ineffective.

If you think Kansas women deserve access to the full range of prenatal care when growing her family – and you trust her to seek life-saving treatment in some of the most difficult life circumstances – you need to have conversations with your family, friends, and neighbors about what this amendment does, and help one another make a plan to reject it on the August 2, 2022 ballot.

Otherwise, we must prepare ourselves for situations in which women we care about will be forced to leave our state – or risk their health and safety – to seek the medical care they need.