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Kansas attorney general asks court to delay action on major abortion case

·2 min read

Kansas Attorney Derek Schmidt is asking the state supreme court to pause his appeal of an abortion case he filed three months ago until Kansans vote on a proposed constitutional amendment next summer.

In July, Schmidt appealed a Shawnee County court decision that struck down a ban on what abortion opponents call “dismemberment abortions.” But in a request filed Wednesday, Schmidt asked for a delay in the proceedings until Kansas voters decide in August whether to amend the state constitution to remove the right to an abortion.

“Proceeding with this appeal while a vote on the Value Them Both Amendment is pending risks needlessly wasting the time and resources of the parties and this Court.,” Schmidt wrote. “If the Value Them Both Amendment is adopted, any additional proceedings will have been for nothing.”

Schmidt, however, filed the appeal in July, six months after lawmakers had voted to place the amendment on the August 2022 ballot alongside the Republican gubernatorial primary.

At the time he announced the appeal, he was facing a 2022 GOP primary contest against former Gov. Jeff Colyer. Publicly defending abortion restrictions as Attorney General may have helped Schmidt woo anti-abortion voters driven to the polls by the amendment.

But in August, Colyer exited the primary after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. His departure allowed Schmidt, now the presumptive nominee, to shift his focus to the November general election against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly

John Milburn, a spokesman for Schmidt, said in an email that Schmidt’s appeals and the request for a stay were related to court deadlines and not politics. The office, Milburn said, had previously asked a lower court to delay ruling on the case but was denied.

Abortion rights are likely to be a major issue in the November 2022 election following the August ballot issue and an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a strict Mississippi abortion ban.

Schmidt’s appeal is a continuance of a six-year court battle that led to the Kansas Supreme Court’s landmark 2019 decision that the state constitution protects a right to abortion.

In 2015, Kansas passed a bill banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions, most commonly used after the 14th or 15th week of pregnancy. A preliminary injunction sought by the Center for Reproductive Rights early in the court case prevented the law from ever being enforced.

The matter reached the Kansas Supreme Court in 2019. When the high court ruled that abortion is a “fundamental right” guaranteed by the constitution, it also sent the 2015 law back to the district court where it was ruled unconstitutional in April.

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