Planned Parenthood Lawsuit Over Kan. Antiabortion Law Narrowed to One Provision

August 13, 2013 — U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil on Monday approved an agreement to narrow a Planned Parenthood lawsuit against a far-ranging Kansas law restricting abortion, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Under the agreement, Planned Parenthood will only challenge a requirement that abortion providers' websites include a link to a state website about abortion and fetal development, along with a statement that the state's materials are "objective" and "scientifically accurate" (Hanna, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/12).

Originally, Planned Parenthood also challenged a provision of the law -- which took effect in July -- requiring abortion providers to give women seeking abortions information suggesting that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The original suit also opposed a 2011 rule that required the information to state that an abortion terminates "the life of a whole separate, unique, living human being."

State Clarifies Compliance Standards

Peter Brownlie -- president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri -- said providers were worried the state would force them the change their own materials to include the statements about abortion.

Under the agreement, if abortion providers give women access to the state health department's materials, the state will consider the providers to be in compliance with the requirements that women be told fetuses can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy and are "unique living human being[s]" (AP/Shawnee Dispatch, 8/12).

Brownlie called the agreement "a positive development," adding that it "lets us focus on the issue that's most problematic" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/12).

The new Kansas law also bans abortions based on the sex of the fetus, declares that life begins "at fertilization," blocks tax breaks for abortion providers and bars abortion providers' involvement in school sex education courses. Planned Parenthood is not challenging those requirements (AP/Shawnee Dispatch, 8/12).

Website Requirement Already on Hold

In a separate suit filed by physicians Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty has already temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the requirement that abortion providers post certain information on their websites. Crotty also blocked a provision redefining medical emergencies in a way that critics say could restrict abortion access.

Hodes and Nauser had asked Crotty to block the entire law while their suit proceeds, but she declined to block the other portions of the measure (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/31).