Kan. Judge Blocks Some Parts of Antiabortion Law, Others Take Effect

July 1, 2013 — A Kansas judge on Friday temporarily blocked provisions of a state law that require abortion providers to post certain information on their websites and redefine medical emergencies in a way that critics say could restrict abortion access, the AP/Washington Post reports (Hanna, AP/Washington Post, 6/29).

The law takes effect July 1 (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 6/30). Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty did not block other portions of the measure, including ones that ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus, block tax breaks for abortion providers and bar abortion providers' involvement in school sex education courses. The bill also requires abortion providers to tell patients that the procedure ends the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being."

One blocked provision would mandate that abortion providers declare on their websites that the state health department's online information about abortion and fetal development is "accurate and objective." Among other claims, the state's website says that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion providers and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said there is no evidence that the statement is accurate.

Crotty also blocked the medical emergencies provision, which attempts to align the law's definition with the state's policy of not allowing mental health as a reason a woman can obtain an emergency abortion. Critics said the new definition is so narrow that no woman would be exempt from the state's 24-hour waiting period for an abortion in a medical emergency.

The plaintiffs in the suit are physicians Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, who provide abortion services at a health center in Overland Park. They had asked Crotty to block the entire law while the suit proceeds.

The doctors argued that the law violates their free-speech rights by forcing them to make specific claims about the state website, as well as their right to equal legal protection and due legal process. Crotty said they did not present enough information to justify blocking the entire law (AP/Washington Post, 6/29).

Separate Suit

Two days after Crotty's ruling, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil on Sunday refused a separate request from Planned Parenthood to temporarily block parts of the law, including the website provision.

Noting that Crotty already blocked the provision, Vratil said Planned Parenthood would not suffer harm if she refused to do the same (AP/Kansas City Star, 6/30).

Planned Parenthood Expects 'Business as Usual' for Now

Planned Parenthood does not expect major changes at its clinics for now, KMBZ reports.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President and CEO Peter Brownlie said, "In most respects, it will be business as usual. We will be providing abortion services to women who requested them whatever the outcome" of the suit (KMBZ, 7/1).