The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state's constitution protects a woman's right to an abortion, ending a yearslong legal battle over a 2015 ban on a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure.
According to the state's highest court, "the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights affords protection of the right of personal autonomy."
The ruling, issued Friday, goes on to state that "this right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy."
Friday's ruling stems from a 2015 law that banned a commonly used procedure for second-trimester abortions. The ban was legally challenged and therefore never enforced while making its way through the courts.
The 2015 law would bar doctors from using instruments such as forceps to remove a fetus from the womb. These instruments are often used in dilation and evacuation procedure, which is considered the safest abortion procedure in the second trimester according to the Associated Press, citing the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The lawsuit against the 2015 ban was filed by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser. The father and daughter operated a women's health clinic in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City.
Shawnee County District Judge Larry D. Hendricks blocked the ban from taking effect in July 2015, ruling that the Kansas Bill of Rights "independently protects the fundamental right to abortion."
The state appealed but in January 2016 the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, with Judge Steve A. Leben writing that the "rights of Kansas women in 2016 are not limited to those specifically intended by the men who drafted our state's constitution in 1859."
The state appealed again and the state's Supreme Court took the issue.
"While federal law has long guaranteed every woman the right to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their healthcare providers, I’m pleased that the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision now conclusively respects and recognizes that right under Kansas law as well," Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement.
The state's Supreme Court ruling marked a major victory for abortion rights activists as the decision ensures abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the federal law that establishes a national right to abortion — Roe v. Wade — were ever overturned by the US Supreme Court.
"Indeed, this court has the authority to interpret Kansas constitutional provisions independently of the manner in which federal courts interpret corresponding provisions of the United States Constitution. This can result in the Kansas Constitution protecting the rights of Kansans more robustly than would the United States Constitution," the decision reads.
The decision comes as states across the country are passing laws heavily restricting a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy, including one in Ohio that bans abortion once a heartbeat is detected, which is usually around six weeks.