January 17, 2012 — On Friday, 25 Kansas House members endorsed a proposal for a "personhood" amendment to the state constitution that would define fertilized eggs as people, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The legislation -- circulated by Rep. Randy Garber (R) -- could be introduced in the House sometime this week.
The proposal would amend the state constitution to guarantee the "inalienable rights" of every human starting at fertilization. Personhood Kansas, which backs the measure, hopes the legislation will spark a legal battle to challenge Roe v. Wade.
If two-thirds majorities in both chambers approve the measure, it would be placed on the ballot in the Aug. 7 primary for a statewide vote. The measure would become law if a simple majority of voters support it.
Kari Ann Rinker -- state coordinator for the Kansas National Organization for Women -- said the proposal is broad enough to ban common forms of birth control, as well as in vitro fertilization. Lawmakers who "sponsor and vote for personhood legislation should be prepared to stand with a class of very, very extreme religious zealots," she said, adding, "These are zealots who stand in direct opposition to Kansas citizens' most basic elements of personal privacy and freedom" (Hanna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/13).
Chance of Passage
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the measure likely would pass the House, but securing a majority in the Senate could be difficult. Kansas Senate President Steve Morris (R) said the Senate in recent years has passed a number of antiabortion bills, but the two-thirds majority needed for the personhood amendment would be difficult to achieve.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) said Kansas residents are growing weary of the annual fight over abortion bills backed by a narrow group of lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D) said the Senate's 2012 agenda is "heavy enough," adding, "We should focus more on the budget and what the governor has proposed on Medicaid reform" (Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/13).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.