New Lawsuit Filed to Block Nearly 50-Page Kansas Law Restricting Reproductive Health Care, Discriminating Against Women and Doctors

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit today to block a new Kansas law encompassing 47 pages of unconstitutional restrictions on women's access to abortion, all designed to discriminate against reproductive health care providers and their patients.

HB 2253, which was signed into law by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on April 19, includes more than a dozen harmful measures, including callously redefining what constitutes a medical emergency in a way that would require many pregnant women in life-threatening situations to wait at least 24 hours before obtaining emergency abortion care—including women who are hemorrhaging, suffering from a serious infection, or facing an ectopic pregnancy about to rupture.

The law also forces doctors to provide medically inaccurate information to their patients seeking an abortion—and to vouch for its accuracy against their better judgment—and imposes discriminatory tax penalties on abortion patients, abortion providers, and others who facilitate access to abortion services. The law even goes so far as to ban abortion providers from chaperoning their schoolchildren's field trips or otherwise acting as a school district representative.

The Center filed today's lawsuit, Hodes & Nauser MDs, P.A. v. Schmidt, in state court on behalf of Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser, a father-daughter medical team that provides a full range of ob-gyn services in Overland Park, Kan.

"The hostile Kansas politicians who launched this vicious broadside assault on the health and rights of the women of their state clearly believe the state constitution and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent don't apply to them. We intend to prove them wrong.

"This law is an act of blatant and appalling discrimination, serving a patently unconstitutional purpose: to burden, punish, and stigmatize reproductive health care providers and their patients, and to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.

"We will continue this battle until this noxious law is permanently overturned."  

The Center has asked the court to block the law in its entirety before it takes effect on July 1.

Among the most harmful provisions in HB 2253 is one that eliminates any meaningful exception for medical emergencies from the restrictions on access to abortion imposed by Kansas law. The law redefines the term "medical emergency" to exclude situations in which a physician has time to determine the gestational age of the pregnancy—a process that only takes a matter of minutes with an ultrasound or by simply asking the patient—before being able to legally perform an abortion.

This would have devastating consequences for women who would now be forced to comply with the state's 24-hour waiting period and other time-consuming restrictions on access to abortion even if her life is in imminent danger.

The law also:

  • compels physicians to provide abortion patients with false and misleading information about abortion and vouch for its accuracy;
  • requires abortion providers to hang massive signs in their offices, effectively turning their office walls into a billboard for the government's message;
  • imposes special tax liability on abortion patients, abortion providers, and others who facilitate access to abortion services, including employers who offer coverage for abortion in employee health benefit plans;
  • denies abortion providers protection against discrimination by state agencies that is afforded to other healthcare providers;
  • bans abortion providers from working or volunteering in public schools;
  • bans University of Kansas Medical School faculty members from teaching medical students and residents how to perform abortions, even when on property not owned by the state; and
  • eliminates coverage of medically-necessary abortion services from public health insurance plans.

"These unconstitutional measures place women's lives at unnecessary risk, while seeking to deceive them with false and misleading information," said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center and lead counsel for the lawsuit. "We are confident the court will see the clear intention behind this monstrous law is to restrict women's health care in an unconstitutional way."

Drs. Hodes and Nauser are both board certified ob-gyns that have been providing a full range of reproductive health care—including annual exams, childbirth, contraception, fertility treatments, and abortion services—to their patients for more than 40 years collectively.

"As board-certified physicians, my father and I are deeply committed to providing our patients with the very best medical care available and with accurate and truthful information about their health -this law would force us to violate that commitment to the women we serve," said Dr. Traci Nauser. "This law is a severe intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship and will place the health and lives of pregnant women in Kansas at risk."

The Center is also currently litigating a 2011 Kansas' law on behalf of Drs. Hodes and Nauser that would impose unreasonable and unnecessary licensing regulations aimed at shuttering most, if not all, Kansas abortion providers. That law has been blocked by a state judge since the lawsuit was filed in November 2011.

The Center filed today's lawsuit along with local counsel Teresa Woody, The Woody Law Firm PC; Kent Yalowitz, Laura W. Tejeda and Meredith Esser of Arnold & Porter LLP and Rene M. Netherton in Topeka, KS.