Judge puts parts of new Kan. abortion law on hold

02 July 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. – A Kansas judge on Friday temporarily blocked some of the state’s new abortion restrictions that were set to take effect next week, including a requirement that providers said would make it nearly impossible for a woman to obtain an emergency abortion.

Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty blocked two provisions. One requires providers to declare on their websites that the state health department’s information on abortions and fetal development is accurate and objective. Another redefines medical emergencies so that they don’t include mental health reasons, such as a woman threatening to commit suicide. Critics of the provision have said the new definition is so narrow that a woman never would be able to obtain an emergency abortion.

Crotty refused to block other portions of the law that ban sex-selection abortions, block tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibits them from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools’ sexuality courses. Another provision that will take effect requires doctors to provide information to patients that includes a statement that abortion ends the life of “whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

The judge ruled in a lawsuit filed by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who perform abortions at their Overland Park health center. They asked Crotty to prevent the state from enforcing the entire law while their lawsuit proceeds. Crotty said Hodes and Nauser did not present enough information to justify blocking the entire law, requiring her to review each provision. But the judge said, in the case of the provisions she blocked, they and their patients would suffer irreparable harm.

Hodes and Nauser argued that the new law violates their right to equal legal protection, as guaranteed by the state constitution. Hodes called the ruling “a victory for women in Kansas.”

Supporters contend the law preserves life, protects patients and lessens the state’s entanglement with abortion. The Republican-dominated Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities in both chambers, and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent.

Crotty’s ruling came two days after the chief federal judge for Kansas had a hearing in Kansas City, Kan., on a narrower challenge filed by Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions at its Overland Park clinic. Planned Parenthood is challenging provisions requiring providers to give certain information to patients.

The state already has spent nearly $769,000 on private attorneys in defending anti-abortion laws enacted since Brownback took office in January 2011. Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also a Republican, has predicted that defending this year’s law will cost the state $500,000 over the next two years.

Health and safety regulations enacted in 2011 specifically for abortion clinics have never been enforced because courts are still reviewing them.


Text of the new Kansas law: http://bit.ly/13mjcIA

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