- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Kansas City Star, April 28

Kansas Supreme Court right on abortion: Women can make their own decisions - with limits

The Kansas Supreme Court got it right.

In a landmark case - one judge called it “the most significant and far-reaching decision this court has ever made” - a clear majority said Friday that the Kansas Constitution fundamentally protects the right to an abortion.

“This right 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 majority said.

The ruling will not end the political argument over abortion, which rages on in Topeka, Jefferson City and across the country. In fact, because of how the court reached its finding, there are likely to be additional lawsuits and legislative debates.

But the court’s language sends a powerful message to lawmakers: You cannot completely outlaw abortion without violating the guaranteed personal rights of Kansas women, even if the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturns Roe v. Wade.

The Legislature can restrict abortions, but only with laws that can meet “strict scrutiny” - the state must show the need for a law and prove it’s precisely written to avoid trampling on individual rights. The judges sent the case back to the trial court to determine if a 2015 law meets that standard.

It’s a pretty high bar, but it is reachable. That’s why there will be more court cases and legislation to find out where the line is.

In his rambling, often inconsistent dissent, Kansas Supreme Court Judge Caleb Stegall firmly rejected that standard. He’d set the bar much lower, allowing lawmakers to restrict abortion rights if they merely had a rational reason to do so.

That’s the wrong approach. A flimsy “rational basis” test would give lawmakers a blank check to usurp fundamental rights, based on the whims of 165 representatives and senators, as well as one governor.

Putting fundamental rights up for a vote is a recipe for legislative tyranny. Lawmakers legalized slavery, denied women equality, enabled the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, promoted Jim Crow, allowed substandard schools and prohibited gay marriage. All were once considered “rational” decisions, even by some courts.

To be sure, all individual rights - free speech, gun rights, voting rights, abortion - are occasionally restricted. To limit those fundamental rights, though, you need to have a really good reason and prove it’s the least restrictive way to do it. That’s precisely what the Kansas Supreme Court said Friday.

Predictably, many conservatives reacted with outrage after the decision was published. They promised to offer a constitutional amendment next week that would put abortion rights on a statewide ballot.

“Nowhere in our state constitution is there a right to the violent act of abortion,” said Senate President Susan Wagle. “As Kansans, we understand that life is sacred, beginning at conception, and we must always stand and defend the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.”

Putting an anti-abortion amendment on the ballot will take a two-thirds vote in both houses. Expanding Medicaid, which would also protect the most vulnerable among us, would take a simple majority in just the state Senate. Perhaps Wagle and her colleagues could spend their time on that.

It took the Supreme Court two years to reach a decision in this case because abortion and civil rights are complex and difficult issues for everyone, including us. We support the fundamental right to an abortion, but we do not support abortion on demand. Some narrow abortion restrictions, particularly late in a pregnancy, are constitutional. Other restrictions, early in a pregnancy, are not.

Most Americans agree with this view, and much of the world has adopted it. The Kansas Supreme Court endorsed that Friday, and it was right to do so.


The Lawrence Journal-World, April 29

Editorial: Don’t let political agendas muddy school security efforts

Maybe Lawrence schools don’t need metal detectors to make them safer. Maybe the devices would do more harm than good. That is an open question.

At least it should be.

But a pair of Lawrence school board members seem to be working to stop that question from getting the attention it deserves. At last week’s school board meeting, board members Kelly Jones and Shannon Kimball both said they hoped district administrators weren’t going to spend much time researching the use of metal detectors. Both board members think they are a bad idea for Lawrence schools.

Again, that may end up being the case. But if district administrators do halt their research on the devices, it seems they will be at risk of taking a path that Superintendent Anthony Lewis has warned against.

Lewis has spoken of being thoughtful about the issue of school security, and he has come off as a credible and informed leader on the topic. He was the leader behind a pair of public forums after a rash of gun incidents in the district. The district received feedback from the public about ideas for making schools safer. Following the forums, the district created a list of 13 action items. One of those items was to “research clear backpacks and the effectiveness of metal detectors.”

Now, it is unclear whether research on either of those ideas will be completed by district administrators. (The two board members also expressed concerns about clear backpacks.) The board members perhaps felt they were doing the administration a favor by saving it time from studying a solution that has long odds of becoming reality. But there is a real risk to cutting off study of the issue. It sends a message that board members have too many preconceived ideas about a complicated topic, and are wary of having their ideas tested by the research of professional staff members.

It would seem that the board would want to take full advantage of the professional expertise of its administrators. Lewis came from a district that extensively used metal detectors in schools. He has firsthand experience that Jones and Kimball simply don’t.

Also troubling, though, is whether Jones and Kimball’s objections are a sign of political philosophies seeping into this security issue. Kimball praised the education efforts about gun safety the district is undertaking, and further said: “We can’t really do what we want to do, which is keep our kids safe in our buildings, if our community and our policymakers are not going to support us by making it less possible for people to have these weapons in their possession and bring them into our buildings in the first place.”

Board members, of course, are politicians so it is not inappropriate for them to promote political agendas. But we also should be clear-eyed about how much we should rely on potential political solutions in solving school security issues. Kansas lawmakers are more likely to arm teachers than they are to pass laws that place meaningful regulations on gun ownership or how guns are stored in the home.

Hopefully district leaders aren’t basing too much of their security strategy on one of the most Republican states in America tightening gun control laws. If so, they might as well put the Tooth Fairy in charge of district security.

It is fine for Kimball and others to wage that political fight, but let’s make sure it doesn’t get in the way of preventing the real fights: the ones with guns on school property.


The Manhattan Mercury, April 26

Biden has his problems, but he’s a voice of reason

And so now, let’s assume that the roster of Democrats is basically complete.

Joe Biden, the longtime senator and two-term vice president, officially got into the presidential race Thursday, after months of hemming and hawing. That makes 20 candidates, which of course is completely goofy.

The opposition party will have to coalesce, eventually, around one candidate. Sen. Biden would have to be considered one of the favorites, given his prominence. Others would be Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have energized the left wing of the party in recent years. Others who seem to energize voters at the moment include Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, but that sort of thing waxes and wanes.

They will no doubt start clobbering each other in an attempt to win the primary, since they have to distinguish themselves. That will mean a flawed candidate in some sense will be the one to take on incumbent Donald Trump in the general election. He will have the luxury of tweeting along, nicknaming his opponents and setting them up as fools.

Sen. Biden clearly has his problems. He mishandled the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings a generation ago, a mistake that resonates in this era of #MeToo and the echoes in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He apologized to Ms. Hill recently, in an attempt to close the loop, but she hasn’t exactly cleared him.

His tendency to touch and hug also makes people uneasy. The tweeter-in-chief, who has an uncanny gift for this sort of thing, has referred to him as “Creepy Uncle Joe.” He’s also referred to him as “Sleepy Joe,” presumably a reference to age or maybe energy level. Not sure we get that joke … but the point is, he has baggage.

On the other hand, his is the voice of experience and know-how, and he speaks a language of common purpose and unity. That’s welcome in the race, and will provide a contrast with the youth of the likes of Mr. O’Rourke or some of the further edges of the party represented by Sens. Sanders and Warren.

How will it all play out? We have no clue. We’re certain Sen. Biden will play a substantial role, and with his entry in the race, it’s fully underway.

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