Kan. Bill Would Prevent Ob-Gyn Residents From Learning How To Provide Abortion Care

March 8, 2012 — A provision in a Kansas bill that would ban state employees from providing abortion care during their workday could affect abortion training for ob-gyn residents at the state's medical schools, the Huffington Post reports. The bill is pending before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires medical schools to offer abortion training as part of their ob-gyn residency programs. The Kansas bill would affect residents at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the only hospital in Kansas where state employees are currently providing abortion care.

C.J. Janovy, a spokesperson for the medical center, said that for the school to maintain its accreditation, ob-gyn residents must "gain experience with induced abortion and complications due to abortion, unless they have a religious or moral objection." She noted that the school's residents also can receive abortion care training and experience outside the hospital at facilities that are not owned or operated by the state.

Lobbyists working with the medical center have talked with lawmakers about amending the bill to protect the residency program's accreditation. Rep. Sean Gatewood (D) raised an amendment on the issue but later dropped it when House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chair Steve Brunk (R) said the amendment did not need to be offered at that time. According to Gatewood, there was confusion among Republicans about whether the amendment was needed.

The bill is one of the most "sweeping" antiabortion measures in the state in years, the Huffington Post reports (Celock, Huffington Post, 3/7). The bill contains provisions ranging from requiring that women receive warnings about the supposed risks of abortion care to changing medical malpractice and tax laws.

One of the most controversial provisions would bar a woman from filing a medical malpractice suit if a doctor withheld information about birth defects to prevent an abortion or if the woman suffers pregnancy-related health damage because the doctor withheld information from her to prevent an abortion. If the woman died, a wrongful death suit would be permitted (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/7).

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has said he would sign the bill if it passes the Legislature (Huffington Post, 3/7).

Kansas Doctor Struggles To Provide Abortions

The Los Angeles Times recently profiled Mila Means, a Wichita, Kan., family practitioner who received additional medical training after the 2009 murder of George Tiller to help fill a gap in abortion care access. Until his death, Tiller was the lone provider of abortion care in Wichita.

Means purchased Tiller's medical equipment and informed the landlord of her medical office about her plan to provide abortion care. After that point, abortion-rights opponents began protesting outside her office, which prompted her landlord to file a nuisance lawsuit against her. Means settled the lawsuit by agreeing not to provide abortion care at that particular office location and then worked to create a not-for-profit organization so she could purchase her own medical office building.

Means has not provided abortion care since she received her training, and with the threat of antiabortion legislation in the state, she said she does not plan to do so any time soon (Deam, Los Angeles Times, 3/5).