Final Version of Kan. Abortion Clinic Rules Will Ease Some Requirements

October 24, 2011 — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has removed some provisions of its proposed regulations for abortion clinics, according to an advance copy of the permanent rules -- scheduled to take effect Nov. 14 -- obtained by the Associated Press, the AP/Kansas City Star reports (Hegeman, AP/Kansas City Star, 10/21).

The regulations are part of a new state law that requires abortion clinics to undergo inspections and obtain licenses. In July, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia issued a temporary injunction against the law until a trial is held in a lawsuit filed by two of the state's abortion providers. The law, which would have taken effect July 1, authorizes the health department to write standards for buildings and equipment, issue annual licenses for abortion clinics, fine clinics for non-compliance and go to court to close clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/6). Murguia recently ordered attorneys involved in the suit to submit briefs by Oct. 28 comparing the proposed and permanent regulations.

Although the permanent rules no longer specify patient room sizes, allow clinics more flexibility in setting room temperatures, and loosen the number of required medications and equipment that must be stocked, the changes might not eliminate abortion providers' concerns or stop the federal lawsuit, according to the AP/Star. Most of the provisions are unchanged, including rules that require abortion providers to have privileges at local hospitals and permit the state health department to review patients' medical records.

Miranda Steele, a health department spokesperson, said the temporary proposed regulations were reasonable, but they were adjusted based on public comments. "KDHE took into account the suggestions and input received during the public comment period and made some changes to the regulations, but maintaining the same intent -- to ensure the safety of patients," she said.

Bonnie Scott Jones, a Center for Reproductive Rights attorney representing a Kansas abortion clinic, said the changes likely would not affect the legal challenge. "Although the regulations have changed in some ways, they remain unacceptable, imposing unnecessary and unreasonable requirements that will prevent physicians from providing the full range of reproductive health services to the women of Kansas, and running roughshod over patient confidentiality by giving the state broad access to private medical records," she stated (AP/Kansas City Star, 10/21).