NEWTON — A large gathering of anti-abortion advocates will happen in Newton this week at an event organized to support an amendment of the Kansas Constitution in response to a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling.
The 90-minute event will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Grace Community Church.
"That is the biggest sanctuary we can find," said Ray Nicodemus, a local chaplain helping with the event. "I don't know how many people will be there. I have no idea. ... We want people to be there so they can understand. Many on my group did not know what had happened or what it meant."
The event is an ecumenical "Reverse the Ruling" rally, focusing on a high court decision in April in Hodes and Nauser vs. Schmidt.
The Legislature in 2015 passed a ban on dilation and evacuation procedures, which are used for 95% of patients who terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester. Two physicians who perform the procedures filed suit, arguing the bill violates a constitutional right to abortion because it "prevents physicians from using the safest procedure for most second-trimester abortions."
The Kansas Supreme Court agreed, determining the state constitution's bill of rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy," and the protection "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.”
"The practical effect of the ruling is the nullification of virtually all restrictions on abortion in Kansas," said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. "Put another way, abortion is now enshrined as a state constitutional right in Kansas and 'the law of Kansas,' is very similar to states like New York, and is now more restrictive than the more well-known federal case Roe v. Wade."
The rally on Nov. 7 will focus primarily on creating political pressure for a new constitutional amendment in Kansas that says there is not a constitutional right to abortion in Kansas.
Passing a state constitutional amendment in Kansas is a two-step process. Both chambers of the Legislature must pass the measure with a supermajority of 66%. If that happens, the question is placed on a general election ballot for a vote. The Kansas Constitution has been amended 97 times since 1857.
"Such an amendment would be a decision of the people of Kansas and will allow current laws on the books to be enforced," Weber said.
Constitutional amendments are voted on by registered voters during general elections.
"I don't care if you are pro-life or pro-choice ... my goal is let's get it on a ballot and see. They can vote no, we don't want a change," Nicodemus said. "Let's have the two sides stand up and say yea or nay."
Weber will offer a presentation about the ruling and what it means, a representative of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas will speak, an adoption advocate will speak and a representative from Kansans For Life will participate. There will be prayer, music and a call to action encouraging citizens to contact their Kansas state representative and Kansas state senator asking them to vote in favor of putting the amendment on the ballot.