Center for Reproductive Rights files lawsuit against Kansas abortion clinic regulations

Lawsuit details health department’s “sham licensing process”

(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit challenging new licensing regulations for abortion providers. The challenge was filed on behalf of the private OB/GYN practice operated by Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser in Overland Park. Under the new law, providers must meet a number of extensive new standards in order to become licensed by the state. Plaintiffs cannot meet these requirements without rebuilding their office from the ground up, including 150 square feet procedure rooms, 300 square feet of storage space for janitor’s supplies, and designated dressing rooms for staff that already come to the office in their work clothes. The regulations take effect on July 1, and could force Dr. Hodes and Dr. Nauser, and the two other Kansas abortions providers to stop providing abortion services.

“Between the rigid and unnecessary building standards and the absurd deadlines, this licensing process is a complete sham,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Our clients have a long record of providing safe and high-quality OB/GYN care, including abortion services, to women over the last thirty years. These regulations have nothing to do with safety standards, and everything to do with an aggressive anti-choice government trying to shut down abortion providers.”

The lawsuit outlines a detailed timeline in which the Kansas Department of Health issued onerous, new regulations without giving the plaintiffs notice or an opportunity to be heard, and imposed unattainable deadlines:

  • On June 9, the department sent the plaintiffs an initial draft of regulations and asked that the regulations be reviewed and compliance documented by June 17. This draft did not dictate specific dimensions or locations for rooms.
  • On June 13, the agency informed the plaintiffs that the regulations had been changed by the Attorney General’s office, but they did not provide a copy or indicate what changes had been made.
  • On Friday, June 17, , the agency issued the final regulations, after business hours. This time the document included numerous, rigid physical facility requirements that are impossible for an existing medical office to meet.
  • The agency refused to grant the plaintiffs temporary licenses based on existing law or provide them the opportunity to request waivers of any of the new requirements.

The Center argues that the regulations and licensing process violate the due process rights of plaintiffs, and place an undue burden on their patients by effectively banning the performance of abortions at most, if not all, of the facilities that currently provide those services. In addition, the lawsuit argues that the new rules and licensing process are irrational, medically unnecessary, and impose more stringent requirements than those imposed on other providers of office-based surgeries, and in some cases, more stringent than those imposed on hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on behalf of the Overland Park private OB/GYN practice of The Center for Women’s Health operated by father-daughter team Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser.