Kansas Supreme Court
EQUAL PROTECTION—KANSAS CONSTITUTION
HODES & NAUSER, MDS V. SCHMIDT
SHAWNEE DISTRICT COURT—COURT OF APPEALS IS AFFIRMED
DISTRICT COURT IS AFFIRMED
NO. 114,153 – APRIL 26, 2019
FACTS: Senate Bill 95 bans the most common type of second-trimester abortion, referred to in medical terms as Dilation and Evacuation (D&E). Doctors Hodes and Nauser, who perform both regular abortions and D&Es, sought to temporarily enjoin SB 95 on grounds that it violates sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. The State objected, arguing both that the Kansas Constitution does not provide a right to abortion or, in the alternative, that SB 95 is not unduly burdensome. The district court agreed with the doctors and issued the temporary injunction. The State immediately appealed and the Kansas Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed the district court by splitting 6-1-7. The State's petition for review was granted.
ISSUES: (1) Establishing a constitutional right; (2) level of scrutiny
HELD: Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights have much the same effect as the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but the Kansas Supreme Court has the right to interpret the amendments more expansively than do federal courts who interpret the corresponding federal provisions. Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights acknowledges rights that are distinct from and broader than the United States Constitution. This includes the right to personal autonomy and, in turn, the right of a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, and family formation. The State may encroach on these natural rights only with a compelling justification. The fundamental right implicated here demands that strict scrutiny be used to evaluate the proposed legislation; the court rejects the Casey standard of "undue burden." Even though the district court used an undue burden standard the error is harmless. The district court correctly issued the temporary injunction because the doctors proved that they are substantially likely to prevail on their claim that SB 95 does not promote a compelling government interest.
CONCURRENCE: (Biles, J.) The correct result was reached, including the findings on the meaning of section 1 of the Kansas Constitution. But the strict scrutiny established by the majority offers little guidance for application or how to differentiate from the undue burden standard.
DISSENT: (Stegall, J.) The majority's decision fundamentally alters the structure of our government. Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights is a guarantee of the right of republican self-government. Instead of using a strict scrutiny analysis as relates to a fundamental right, the proper standard is "rational basis with bite." The linchpin of the analysis is questioning what Kansas citizens have authorized the legislature to do on their behalf. Here, the analysis would question whether SB 95 is reasonably related to the furtherance or protection of the common welfare.
STATUTES: Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights, sections 1 and 2