GENERIC: Gavel, court, legal (new)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday that a Kansas law banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure is “unconstitutional and unenforceable” under a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights.

Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson's decision was the first on abortion from a lower court since the decision from the state's highest court. But Kansas has been unable to enforce the law since it was enacted in 2015 under then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback because of a lawsuit from two abortion providers.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution but returned the case to district court for further review of the ban on what the law called “dismemberment abortion.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law would have “made it a crime for doctors to use their best medical judgment" in serving patients.

Abortion opponents argued that the legal standards set by the Supreme Court make it virtually impossible for abortion restrictions to stand.

GOP lawmakers put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the August 2022 ballot to reverse the Supreme Court decision. Anti-abortion groups said Wednesday that Watson's decision confirms the need for a constitutional change.

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