Doctors in Kansas are fighting back against ridiculous new licensing regulations that aim to shut down abortion clinics. The physicians have filed a federal lawsuit to block the new regulations, but it seems very possible that on Friday Kansas will become the first state in the country where there are no abortion providers.
Earlier this month, Governor Sam Brownback signed a law that gave clinics that provide abortion services until July 1 to comply with a laundry list of new requirements. These range from reasonable rules like having certain medications on hand, to absolutely ludicrous specifications about the size of janitor's closets and the precise temperature of procedure rooms. The Associated Press has requested records from the inspections, but so far it's only received an blank 18-page checklist with more than 200 items.
No one is shocked that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment hasn't approved any of the state's three clinics for licensing. According to the Kansas City Star, Planned Parenthood in Overland Park was inspected for 20 hours last week, and has yet to be licensed even though organization leaders say it will be in full compliance by Friday. Aid For Women in Kansas City didn't even get inspected, as it was denied a license based on its paper application. The Center for Women's Health in Overland Park was scheduled to be inspected today, but doctors canceled the review because they say they know they won't get approved.
Instead Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter Dr. Traci Nauser, the physicians who run the Center for Women's Health, have filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the state from enforcing the "sham" law. Their suit says that the regulations are part of an organized effort by the Brownback administration,
"to close abortion clinics by any means necessary. At every step …, KDHE implemented the licensing provisions of the act in ways that made it impossible for existing medical practices to obtain a license by the effective date."
The suit calls the new rules "ambiguous and unclear" and says the law imposes, "burdensome and costly requirements that are not medically necessary or appropriate and that are not imposed on Kansas medical providers performing other comparable procedures."
Anti-choice activists say that the clinics are just trying to get around the law because they all failed to meet "minimum health and safety standards." Obviously abortions can't safely be performed in a facility that doesn't have a toilet in the staff dressing room.
Aid for Women is expected to file its own lawsuit today, and the Overland Park Planned Parenthood is considering doing the same, even though its license application is still pending. All three abortion clinics are in the Kansas City area, and an attorney representing the Center for Women's Health notes that if they're shut down, the nearest location for a woman to receive a first-trimester abortion would be Columbia, Missouri, and the nearest location for a second-trimester abortion would be St. Louis. That means a woman living in central Kansas would have to drive about six hours or eight hours to get a safe and legal abortion.