Practitioners Sue Kansas Over Law Shutting Abortion Clinics

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2011   |   10:32AM   |   Topeka, KS

Two abortion practitioners in Kansas have filed suit against a new law that has already resulted in temporarily closing one abortion center and may result in the closing of two others that may fail to meet the new health and safety standards.

The new law pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback signed requires abortion centers to meet the same basic health and safety standards as legitimate outpatient surgical centers such as, according to the bill, “having an emergency door that can accommodate a gurney … maintaining proper emergency equipment, drugs and protocols, having proper lighting and ventilation, lavatory areas, and spaces for the sterilization of surgical equipment. Clinics must also have a licensed nurse in the clinic when abortions are done.”

The state health department has an 18-page checklist with more than 200 criteria abortion centers must meet in order to remain in compliance with the law. Abortion facilities must obtain an annual license from the health department and explain to officials the drugs and equipment used.

The Aid for Women abortion facility in Kansas City has lost its license to do abortions in Kansas as it was one of the three states that did not meet the regulations put in place by the state legislature this session. The Aid for Women abortion facility lost the license and an attorney for the abortion center received a notice that its application for a license had been denied by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Cheryl Pilate indicated Aid for Women would have to close at least temporarily while it pursues its legal options.

Now, two abortion practitioners, Herbert Hodes and his daughter Traci Nauser, have filed a federal lawsuit in the filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City alleging that the new law is a “sham” that is purposefully designed to shut down the three abortion facilities in the state. The law is slated to officially go into effect on Friday and any abortion business that doesn’t have a license from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s indicating it has met the new regulations will have to close.

Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based pro-abortion legal group representing the abortion practitioners, told AP, “If you look at the process, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than it’s stacked against the providers. The process here is so extreme it’s absurd.”

Hodes and Nauser do abortions at the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park and their abortion business is scheduled to be inspected by state health officials today. The lawsuit, according to AP, has asked that the inspection be canceled and the law enjoined while the lawsuit continues.

The Aid for Women abortion business is expected to file its own lawsuit today while Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which also runs an abortion facility in Overland Park, was inspected last week and has a pending application for its license. However, it is reportedly considering its own lawsuit.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, told LifeNews, “Kansas abortion clinics claim that the state’s attempt at oversight is “political” but their hypocrisy is on full display as they sue a law based on their trade group’s own stated standards, that when challenged the U.S. Supreme Court let stand, and that three South Carolina abortion clinics have managed to live with for over a decade.”

Culp told Fox that the new law is appropriate, especially if abortion businesses want to meet their claim that they actually care about the health of women.

“They’re known more as an abortion mill, in the front door, out the back door as quick as they can get them out,” she said of Aid for Women. They don’t have the room to keep anybody the proper amount of time to do good monitoring.”

“It’s chosen by a vulnerable young woman inside a clinic in a crisis time in her life amongst people who are going to make money if she chooses it, and who are accountable to no one up to this point,” Culp said.

Troy Newman, the president of the Kansas-based pro-life group Operation Rescue applauded the moves to shut down abortion centers not in compliance.

“In light of Planned Parenthood’s history of flouting the law, we have no reason to believe they will adhere to the new clinic safety standards,” said Newman. “While they may receive initial licensing, these people have the attitude that they are above the law. It’s only a matter of time before they disregard the clinic safety rules, too.”

Newman said that “squalid conditions and horrific abuses have been documented at abortion mills in this state, fully justifying the new standards,” and that for decades Kansas “has been like the lawless Wild West for abortionists.”

Meanwhile, Kathy Ostrowski, of Kansans for Life, says Aid for Women has never had the best interests of women in mind.

“For many years, abortion businesses in Kansas have claimed to legislative committees that they do not need state oversight and that they already adhere to high industry standards,” she explained. “Ironically, most provisions in the new Kansas law were taken from the published standards of the National Abortion Federation. To that was added requirements that any abortion must be done by a Kansas-licensed physician with local hospital privileges, and that chemical abortion pills must not be provided via computer.”

She also maintains the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld these kinds of regulations, in the case Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant, 222 F.3d 157 (4th Cir.2000).

“The U.S. Supreme Court did not take the Greenville lower court case for review, and let stand the ruling that South Carolina state standards for licensing abortion clinics ARE constitutional.  The court found the state’s regulations: did not impose an undue burden on the right to seek abortion; do serve a valid purpose in safeguarding the health of women; had a rational basis for regulating abortion clinics, while not regulating other healthcare facilities, [noting that] abortions are “inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.”

“The South Carolina standards –upheld as constitutional– are actually more stringent than the new Kansas law,” Ostrowski said. The South Carolina regulations are responsible for cutting abortions by one-half in the state.