More than two dozen lawmakers in Kansas announced their support for a bill on Friday that would effectively ban abortion in the state, starting a debate among pro-life groups about the wisdom and timing of the proposition.
The bill cites the rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while amending the Kansas constitution to declare that life – and, thus, those inalienable rights – begins at fertilization.
The bill has strong support in the House, with 25 republicans and one democrat supporting the measure. Sources close to the statehouse say the 125-seat House is likely to pass the amendment.
Pro-life groups are split on the bill – some saying the amendment is a long time coming, while others fear it may prematurely thrust the issue toward defeat.
Bruce Garren, Committee Chairman of pro-life group Personhood Kansas, issued support for the measure.
“The Kansas Personhood Amendment is an opportunity to guarantee the basic human rights of every person, young or old, and end this battle, once and for all,” Garren said in a statement. “We have been dealing with this issue for too many years. We’ve lost too many children. The people of Kansas deserve an opportunity to make our voices heard.”
Garren said Kansans have been clamoring to vote on abortion for years, and the bill, if passed, will reflect a long-held moral position on the issue.
“We come back, year after year, and fight about which children will enjoy the full protection of the law, and which will not, just so we can gear up every twelve months and do it all over again. The Kansas Personhood Amendment will put us all out of business,” Garren said.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said in a statement that the bill might push the issue to the Supreme Court, which might then permanently outlaw provisions that define life at conception.
“[We] do not and cannot recommend a Kansas Personhood Initiative, nor a similar provision known as the Heartbeat Bill, nor do we consider support or opposition of these initiatives as an indication that an individual or a candidate is pro-life,” Culp said.
The bill needs two-thirds support of the House and Senate before it is included on the ballot in November. Mississippi and Colorado voters rejected similar amendments defining personhood between 2008 and 2011.