Archdiocese Local Ministries

Petition drive seeks to reverse Kansas Supreme Court ruling

Archdiocesan pro-life consultant Debra Niesen gets an early start gathering signatures at Holy Trinity Church in Lenexa on a petition to reverse the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed the right to an abortion in Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With a bang of the gavel last April 26, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state’s 1859 Constitution protected a nearly unlimited “right to abortion” — previously unknown for 150 years.

Now, all of Kansas’ pro-life laws are in danger of being eliminated. 

“We believe in a very practical way [the ruling] has knocked out every pro-life law in Kansas, but not officially until they are challenged in court,” said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Thanks to the ruling, Kansas— generally considered to be a state with strong pro-life sentiments — is poised to become the abortion capital of the Midwest, he said. 

And there’s only one way to fix it: amend the Kansas Constitution.

In October, Kansas Catholics will have the opportunity to petition state legislators to pass a state constitutional amendment that will reverse the court’s ruling.

This one’s literally a matter of life and death, and the bishops of Kansas are asking Catholics to rally to this effort.

“Kansas has long been known as a pro-life state,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. “While it won’t be easy, it’s possible, but it’s going to take the entire pro-life community to come together to work for [the amendment’s] passage. I hope Catholics will be part of the leadership of that effort.”

Amending the Kansas Constitution is a two-step process, said Weber. The first step is to have a two-thirds majority vote in both the House (84) and the Senate (27). 

The second step is to place the amendment proposal on the ballot during a primary or general election in 2020.

Archdiocesan pro-life consultant Debra Niesen start gathering signatures at Holy Trinity Church in Lenexa on a petition to reverse the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed the right to an abortion in Kansas.

The “Reverse the Ruling” petition effort is directed toward the first step. The petition does not obligate the legislators to vote a certain way, but it is a powerful tool to show them how seriously Kansans take this issue.

Weber said the legislation will be introduced in both chambers “right out of the gate” when the next session begins on Jan. 13, 2020.

Petitions will be available for signing at many parishes on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 5-6. The petition efforts are being conducted by the Knights of Columbus and parish pro-life committee members.

Debra Niesen, consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life office, said Catholics should be motivated to petition and later vote for the amendment.

“What is particularly upsetting is that we had made such progress by passing common-sense laws that were widely supported by Kansans,” said Niesen. “As a result, the abortion rate decreased [since 1997] by 50 percent, from around 12,000 abortions a year to 6,000 a year.”

The case that led to the decision by the Kansas Supreme Court was a challenge by two abortionists against a dismemberment abortion ban that had become law, but had not yet taken effect because of the challenge. 

“According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, there are about 12 live dismemberment abortions every week in Kansas, thanks to that ruling,” said Weber. “I think, across the board, people find that repugnant.”

The amendment campaign may get a boost from a perception among voters and legislators that this ruling represents judicial overreach and the court took away citizens’ rights to have a voice in life issues.

“Certainly, there is a general feeling by legislators that the court is the bully of Topeka,,” said Weber, “that [justices] are taking on decisions that really should be made by elected officials, so I believe that there is that sentiment out there.

“I think the average Kansan doesn’t realize how political the court is and has been, and it shows in this ruling. It really is an overreach.”

The Catholic Church in Kansas is certainly not alone in the “Reverse the Ruling” effort, said Archbishop Naumann.

“We’re part of a coalition of concerned individuals in Kansas,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Certainly, there are many other Christian churches that share our concern about the court’s decision and the need for this constitutional amendment. 

“Really, one doesn’t have to have any religious faith to be able to, just through pure reason, see that the killing of a child in the mother’s womb is not good for the child, the mother or society as a whole.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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