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Kansas’ highest court signaled Monday that it still considers access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, as an attorney for the state argued that a decisive statewide vote last year affirming abortion rights “doesn’t matter.”

The state Supreme Court is considering exactly how far the Republican-controlled Legislature can go in restricting abortion under a 2019 decision protecting abortion rights. The justices heard arguments from attorneys for Kansas and abortion providers in two lawsuits but isn’t likely to rule for months.

One lawsuit challenges a 2015 law banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure, and the other challenges a 2011 law that regulates abortion providers more strictly than other health care providers. Legal challenges have blocked both laws from being enforced.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared in June 2022 that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t protect abortion rights and that states can ban abortion, but the Kansas court had ruled in 2019 that access to abortion is protected as a matter of bodily autonomy under the state constitution. That led the Legislature to put a proposed amendment on last August’s ballot asking voters whether to lift that constitutional protection, which would have allowed lawmakers to greatly restrict or ban abortion. Voters soundly rejected the measure.

But Kansas Solicitor General Tony Powell, representing the state, told the court that last year’s vote “doesn’t matter” and shouldn’t factor into its decisions on the two lawsuits, arguing that voters might not have wanted abortion banned but still favor “reasonable” restrictions. He said the justices should “let the people work it out” through their elected representatives.

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