Women’s Health Groups Fight Kansas’ Anti-Abortion Law That Forces Doctors To Mislead Their Patients

(Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a new Kansas law that would require doctors in the state to tell women medically disputed information about abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights followed up with their own lawsuit against the measure on Friday. The package of abortion restrictions — which will also instate costly taxes on abortion providers, prevent abortion providers from providing sex ed material in public schools, and define life as beginning at conception in the state constitution — were signed into law in April, and are set to take effect on July 1.

Under HB 2253, doctors would need to tell women seeking abortion services that they are choosing to end the life of a “whole, separate, unique, living human being.” They would also need to provide women with information about the widely debunked link between abortion and breast cancer, which major medical organizations say doesn’t actually exist.

A Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park claims the law violates doctors’ constitutional right to free speech. “It’s called compelled speech, which is a violation of the First Amendment,” Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter’s president, told the Associated Press. “The Legislature is attempting to force us to endorse the political views of the governor and his allies.”

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is an ardent abortion opponent. When he signed the new abortion restrictions into law, he said he wanted to create a “culture of life” in Kansas. He also wrote “JESUS + MARY” in the corner of his notes on the bill.

An increasing number of state-level abortion restrictions seek to impose a political agenda on doctors’ work — and doctors continue to testify against these types of laws, even as legislatures ignore those protests and enact them anyway. Earlier this month, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national group representing thousands of women’s health experts across the country, publicly came out in opposition to laws that negatively impact doctors’ relationships with their patients.

But Kansas is prepared for a legal fight. The state’s attorney general has already requested a $500,000 budget increase to fund the impending court battles over the stringent new abortion law — on top of the nearly $800,000 that the state spent last year to defend an older abortion restriction. Kansas is prioritizing reproductive rights battles even though the state is hardly flush for cash. Lawmakers are currently dealing with recent budget cuts that are squeezing multiple programs, like tobacco prevention initiatives and public education.