(PRESS RELEASE) – A Kansas state judge has blocked enforcement of a recently enacted state licensing statute and regulations that reproductive rights advocates say would cut off women's access to constitutionally protected medical services, including abortion and other important OB-GYN care.
A state judge in the Shawnee County District Court in Topeka has signed a court order barring the state from enforcing the statute and regulations, which impose unnecessary and unreasonable requirements that would prevent health care providers from offering safe, legal abortions and threaten their ability to provide a number of other health services needed by pregnant women requiring urgent medical attention.
The order, based on a stipulation filed jointly by state officials and the Center for Reproductive Rights, halts enforcement of the challenged licensing statute and regulations until the lawsuit is resolved in the district court. The Center filed the suit in June 2011 on behalf of Dr. Herb Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser, a father and daughter team that provides a full range of OB-GYN services in Overland Park, Kan. A federal district judge in Kansas temporarily blocked enforcement of an earlier, temporary version of the regulations in July 2011.
"The sole purpose of these regulations is to overwhelm doctors with irrational, time-consuming, and expensive requirements that will prevent them from providing abortions," said Bonnie Scott Jones, deputy director of the U.S. Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "They advance an ideological agenda with no concern for the fact that they will threaten women's health and lives. While we are pleased the state has decided to stop fighting to immediately enforce this new licensing scheme, the long-term fight is far from over."
Doctors who provide abortion services in their medical offices in Kansas are already governed by state regulations that apply to all office-based surgeries. According to the lawsuit, the new regulations unconstitutionally single out abortion providers by imposing onerous and medically unnecessary requirements that do not apply to doctors providing comparable medical services. For example, it requires only abortion providers to hire licensed nurses to perform many tasks that are within the training and common duties of medical assistants.
The rules also violate the privacy rights of patients under the Kansas state constitution by giving the state broad access to their private medical records, which contain highly personal information including past health conditions, psychological history, and sexual and reproductive health and histories.
In addition, the law would prevent doctors from providing emergency pregnancy termination services to protect a patient's health, including life- and health-saving treatments for women suffering from ectopic pregnancy (a condition that occurs when an embryo implants outside of the uterus and is not viable, but if left untreated can lead to rupture and the risk of infection for the woman).