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Evenly Divided Kansas Appeals Court Blocks 2015 Abortion Law

A first-of-its-kind Kansas law that bans a common method of performing second-trimester abortions has been blocked, as judges on the state's Court of Appeals conclude that the procedure is protected by rights of due process and equal protection.

The law was blocked after the court's full roster of judges split evenly, 7-7 — an outcome that by law affirms a lower court's injunction. The case is expected to be reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court.

The widely watched case was initiated by three doctors, who filed a lawsuit weeks before the law was to take effect last summer. One key legal issue: whether the Kansas Constitution provides a right to abortion.

Distilling several pages of citations from the Kansas Constitution and the state's Supreme Court, the appellate court's opinion states, "we discern a simple proposition: 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."

On the other side of the issue, six of the opposing judges wrote, "there is nothing within the text or history of... the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights to lead this court to conclude that these provisions were intended to guarantee a right to abortion."

The law in question is titled the "Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act." As NPR reported last summer, the law, with few exceptions, would ban what physicians call a "dilation and evacuation" or "D&E" abortion, the primary method for second-trimester abortions in the U.S.

The court's ruling was released on the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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