Kansas Tries To Keep Abortion Regulation Process A Secret

Last month, a federal judge blocked Kansas from enforcing a state law imposing overly rigorous licensing standards on abortion providers pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed by two doctors who perform abortions in the state. Attorneys representing the Kansas abortion providers are alleging that officials drafted the regulations “without independently compiling data or studies on how the new rules would make the procedures safer for the women seeking them,” but they may have a hard time proving their point, since the state is now “battling to keep from revealing details about how it developed” the new rules:

Lawyers for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the attorney general want to prevent two abortion clinics from learning how the rules were crafted, as well as the mind-set behind them, according to their court filings.

They are asking a judge to limit the scope of what is shared with the clinics’ lawyers to prevent overly broad requests that don’t lead to relevant evidence, the court documents say.

The state also has denied open-records requests from The Kansas City Star and The Associated Press, which asked for documents that could have shed light on the drafting of the rules.

The licensing rules — which are far more stringent and specific than what the state currently requires of hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers — established new standards for exits, lighting, bathrooms, and equipment and would allow the states to fine clinics or go to court to shut them down. The state had initially denied licenses to two of the three abortion providers, but all are now operating until the lawsuit against the regulations is resolved.

The public timeline suggests that the new rules — which are only a small part of Kansas’ effort to eradicate abortion in the state and create a direct court challenge to Roe v. Wade — were issued hastily with little time to study their effectiveness or need. The state legislature passed the standards in April and Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) signed it into law on May 16. Kansas’ Department of Health and Environment issued the final version on June 17 and informed clinics that they would have to comply with the rules by July 1.