Kansas Will Hold Hearing on Law Shutting Abortion Centers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2011   |   12:19PM   |   Topeka, KS

State officials in Kansas have announced they will hold a public hearing on a new health and safety law that is already responsible for closing one abortion center that can’t ensure it protects women’s health.

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 law faces two lawsuits from two of the three abortion businesses it affects. They are hoping to take down the law but it would be unenforceable if the state does not hold a public hearing and take comments on the law in four months.

So, according to an Associated Press report, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s rules, which take effect on Friday, will become the subject of a September 7 hearing as they can only remain in effect for four months without public input.

Meanwhile, the five-member State Rules and Regulations Board approved the rules today so the Kansas Department of Health and Environment can begin enforcing them on Friday. But the abortion businesses hope a court will issue an injunction preventing the rules from being enforced while the lawsuit against them continues. The Republican members of the board include two legislators and representatives of the attorney general, secretary of state and secretary of administration.

Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for the Aid for Women  abortion business in Kansas City complained that the rules should not go into effect without first getting public input.

“It’s really ironic that the regulations have not even been given the final stamp of approval,” she told AP. “There really is no other word for it than, `absurd.'”

Center for Women’s Health in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and a Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri late-term abortion business, also in Overland Park, are the other two centers affected. Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, his daughter, who do abortions are Center for Women’s health, filed the first lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City and, on Wednesday, Pilate filed a request to intervene on behalf of Aid for Women and its abortion practitioner Ronald Yeomans.

Planned Parenthood may also sue as well if it does not receive a new license from the state under the new health laws.

Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee told AP she thinks the laws will be upheld as they have in other states.

“I don’t think you have to prove that some of these facilities are substandard or not,” she said. “I think you just have to show the state has in an interest in making sure they are not.”

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.

The Planned Parenthood in Overland Park faced two days of inspections by state health officials who found it to be in compliance with the new state regulations. But the Women’s Health Center appears as if it will close down because it can’t ensure it will adequately protect women’s health.

“We’re doomed,” said its abortion practitioner Herbert Hodes, according to a Fox News report.

Mary Kay Culp with Kansans for Life 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.