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Kan. Judge Delays Ban on Abortion Procedure While Legal Challenge Continues

June 26, 2015 — A Kansas judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a state law (SB 95) that would bar physicians from performing a certain type of abortion procedure, the New York Times reports.

The law was scheduled to take effect on July 1. Meanwhile, a similar ban in Oklahoma (HB 1721) is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1 (Eckholm, New York Times, 6/25).

Law Details

The law, which was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, will permit exceptions only if continuing the pregnancy would result in a woman's death or the irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. The law does not include exceptions for cases of incest or rape. It also does not include an exception if a woman is experiencing mental health issues (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/2).

In April, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) told state legislators it could cost the state up to $450,000 to defend the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/29).

Details of Lawsuit

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, ob-gyns at the Center for Women's Health in Overland Park, Kan. Their clinic is one of only three abortion facilities in the state. The lawsuit asks the district court to block implementation of the law and to declare it unconstitutional.

The providers contend that, under the law, doctors would be forced to change their manner of providing abortion care, resulting in practices that increase the complexity of abortions and the health risks to women (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/2). Further, they said Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from banning the most commonly used procedure for abortion. According to CRR, the banned procedure is used in 95% of abortions that take place during the second trimester.

Latest Ruling

On Thursday, Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks issued a temporary injunction on the law, stating that the plaintiffs likely would win their lawsuit.

He said while alternative abortion methods would remain legal under the law, those "alternatives do not appear to be medically necessary or reasonable." In addition, he noted that the state constitution protects women's right to abortion at least to the extent that the U.S. Constitution does (Hanna, AP/Yahoo! News, 6/25).

Comments

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "We will continue fighting this law until it is permanently struck down as a clear violation of women's rights and the doctor-patient relationship." She added, "Women, with their trusted physicians, have a right to make the very personal, private decision to end a pregnancy without political meddling" (New York Times, 6/25).

Meanwhile, Eileen Hawley, spokesperson for Gov. Sam Brownback (R), said the governor was disappointed by Hendricks' ruling (AP/Yahoo! News, 6/25).