May 26, 2015 — The Kansas Senate last week voted 39-0 to pass a bill (SB 304) that changes the language of a 2011 telemedicine abortion ban (SB 36) in an effort to resolve litigation against the law, AP/KSN reports.
The measure now proceeds to the state House (Bassham, AP/KSN, 5/21).
SB 36, which was signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2011, requires that medication abortion be administered in the presence of a physician and encourages patients to return to the physician between 12 and 18 days after completing a medication abortion regimen.
The bill also 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. Further, it requires the state's abortion clinics to be inspected twice annually, with at least one of the inspections being unannounced; mandates that at least two people -- one of whom must be a woman -- other than the patient be in the room during a pelvic exam or abortion; and requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at an accredited hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law on behalf of two physicians, Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, who argue that the legislation is unnecessary, burdensome and intended to discourage physicians from performing abortions. Judges have blocked the law from taking effect.
The new bill would amend the 2011 law to clarify that the requirement that a physician be in the room with the patient when administering medication abortion would not apply in cases of medical emergencies.
State Chief Deputy Attorney General Jeff Chanay said enacting the legislation would allow the state to "resolve some contested issues and narrow the scope of the existing litigation."
However, CRR senior counsel Stephanie Toti said the proposed change to the 2011 law would "multiply the issues in the lawsuit." She said it would not solve the constitutional issues with the legislation, including that the requirements for physicians often are not "medically appropriate" and that they hinder the ability of women to receive care (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/15).