Kansas doctors file suit over anti-abortion law
Topeka Two Kansas doctors filed a lawsuit Friday in state court seeking to overturn a sweeping new anti-abortion law set to take effect in July, only a day after Planned Parenthood attacked portions of that law in a federal lawsuit.
Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, contend in their lawsuit that the new law violates their rights to equal protection as guaranteed by the Kansas Constitution. The law blocks tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibits them from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools' human sexuality classes.
Hodes and Nauser perform abortions at their health center in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. They previously filed a lawsuit in 2011 against health and safety regulations imposed specifically for abortion providers, and that's still pending in Shawnee County, preventing the state from enforcing the rules.
This time, Hodes and Nauser also are challenging provisions of this year's law spelling out what information doctors must provide to women before terminating their pregnancies, including a statement that abortion ends the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being." They also object to a ban on sex-selection abortions, arguing there's no proof any are performed in Kansas and that the provision is designed to "chill the performance of abortions."
"The Act imposes a host of punitive and discriminatory requirements on women seeking abortion services in Kansas and the conscientious physicians who provide those services," the lawsuit, filed in Shawnee County District Court, said.
Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park and its medical director sued the state on Thursday, limiting its federal court challenge to "informed consent" provisions and a requirement that a provider's website link to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Planned Parenthood argues those provisions violate free-speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, a Planned Parenthood lawsuit in 2011 against a state law denying it family planning dollars for non-abortion services in Kansas is before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, said all of the regulations were drafted to withstand court scrutiny.
Culp said that Hodes and Nauser and other providers are "clearly out of the mainstream." Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent, and both legislative chambers have strong anti-abortion majorities.
"They're basically out of options in a state where the governor and the Legislature are pro-life," she said. "Their only option is the courts."
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office has paid outside lawyers more than $758,000 defending anti-abortion laws enacted since Brownback took office in January 2011.
Friday's lawsuit names Schmidt and Brownback's secretaries of revenue and health and environment as defendants.