Attorneys Question Medical Justification for Kan. Abortion Clinic Regulations

August 1, 2011 — Attorneys for two Kansas abortion providers on Friday said that state officials drafted new requirements for abortion clinics without compiling data or studies on how the regulations will make abortion care safer, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. In addition, a records request by the Associated Press resulted in no evidence that such research occurred before the regulations were issued.

Teresa Woody -- who is representing physicians Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, a father and daughter who provide gynecological and abortion services at the Center for Women's Health -- said that the state cannot show that the new regulations are medically justified. Hodes and Nauser's attorneys expect the alleged lack of research to be a central issue in a lawsuit they have filed in U.S. District Court seeking to overturn the regulations (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 7/29).

The law requires abortion clinics to meet certain building standards, obtain licenses and undergo inspections. The law authorizes the Kansas Department of Health and Environment 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. The standards include stipulations regarding the sizes of rooms and closets, room temperature settings, and stocking of drugs and supplies (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/6).

The law was supposed to take effect on July 1, but U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia blocked the measure until the lawsuit is resolved. Murguia questioned whether state officials could show that the KDHE rules were "rationally related" to protecting patients.

The AP filed an open records request with the department to obtain copies of studies, reports or data summaries compiled by the department from Jan. 1 through early July. The request also sought summaries of existing data or studies used to draft the regulations. The health department responded that it has "no document that meets this request."

Woody filed notices in federal court last week disclosing that her clients' attorneys plan to question health department officials and members of the attorney general's staff in September. She also filed a notice that both the attorney general's office and health department had received a list of questions and requests to produce documents.

"We don't think any of these regulations are medically necessary," Woody said, adding, "If they have research out there that shows the regulations are medically necessary, we haven't seen it."

Miranda Myrick, a KDHE spokesperson, on Friday said that state and federal guidelines for hospitals and clinics are based on an assumption that they will "result in a higher level of care." She added, "In developing these regulations, KDHE looked to resources that used established industry-accepted standards of care in clinical settings that have been developed over many years" (AP/Kansas City Star, 7/29).