Last month, Republican lawmakers successfully passed an anti-choice bill requiring the state’s only three abortion clinics to be inspected twice a year, including one unannounced review. Under the new licensing standards, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will create new standards for exits, lighting, bathrooms, and equipment and would have “the power to fine clinics” or “go to court to shut them down.” The law specifically targets abortion clinics and left other surgical clinics untouched by the new requirements — a fact that moved state Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler (R) to note the hypocrisy and vote against his party. However, the law passed in May and demands compliance by July 1.
Kansas Health Department inspectors began reviewing a Planned Parenthood clinic Wednesday “ahead of a decision by [the] health department on whether the state’s three abortion clinics will be allowed to continue operating” and receive licenses. Given the level of new requirements and the short time-period in which clinics have to comply, anti-choice advocates are confident that the clinics will close and Kansas will be “the first abortion-free state in the nation“:
“We have doubts that any of the abortion clinics can meet the safety requirements of the new law,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “If they cannot comply, all three abortion clinics would be forced to cease abortion operations, making Kansas the first abortion-free state in the nation.”
If Kansas’ law succeeds in shutting down the state’s abortion clinics, that would be nothing less than a direct attack on the Constitution. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court held that states may enact some abortion regulations, but they may not “strike at the right itself” to terminate a pregnancy. A law specifically designed to make it impossible to operate abortion clinics is a direct attack on women’s constitutional right to choose.
Given the persistent anti-choice motivations of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and the state Legislature, Planned Parenthood of Kansas fears “none of the three clinics will get licensed, forcing them to shut down July 1.” Kansas’ Aid for Women clinic administrator Jeff Pederson said the clinic “will be forced to spend $10,000 immediately on a new exit mandated by the law.” He also notes the law’s requirement that physicians at a clinic have privileges with a hospital within 30 miles is “problematic because anti-abortion groups pressure hospitals into revoking or not granting such privileges.”
As another state Republican who opposed the law pointed out, the law is also going to cost Kansas taxpayers an “absurd” amount of money: $67,000 a year to do six inspections at three clinics. “I’d like to know where I can apply for that job,” he quipped. Of course, anti-choice activists insist that any amount of taxpayer funds is appropriate to end a woman’s constitutional right, not protect it. As anti-choice activist Newman notes, that is his definitive goal. “We certainly believe there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ abortion clinic,” he said. “The best way to protect women is to close the abortion clinics.”