Kansas To Pursue Strict Abortion Licensing Regulations Despite Court Injunction

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing new licensing regulations against its three abortion providers, but that doesn’t mean that the state is letting up in its effort to outlaw abortions across the state. To the contrary, Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) administration plans to enact new permanent regulations that may be identical to the temporary rules being challenged in court:

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment already had plans for a new set of rules even as it finished regulations that would have taken effect Friday. The agency described the first set as temporary, which allowed it to avoid taking public comments and get the rules in place within weeks, though they could remain in effect afterward for only four months. The next set of rules would be considered permanent and require public comment. […]

Robert Moser, secretary of health and environment and a Brownback appointee, said his department respected the ruling and would “follow the law.”

But Moser added: “Judge Murguia’s ruling is narrowly tailored and does not prevent KDHE from moving forward to establish permanent licensing regulations.” […]

Department officials have said their proposed permanent rules are identical to the temporary ones blocked by Murguia. Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for the Aid for Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan., said if the department makes few or no changes, providers will challenge the next set “for the very same reasons.”

“Those would certainly be taken up into the lawsuit,” she said.

The licensing rules — which are far more stringent and specific than what the state currently requires of hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers — had shut down two of Kansas’ three abortion clinics. One provider, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri clinic, received an abortion license last Thursday — “after being initially denied and undergoing a second inspection.” All three clinics will now be allowed to operate until the lawsuit against the regulations are resolved.


Proponents of the new regulations argue that stricter licensing standards would help improve women’s safety, a notion the judge challenged before issuing a stay of the regulations. Indeed, as RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson argues, “[s]uperfluous regulations put in place to delay or deter women from obtaining abortions — along with stigma, discrimination, and clinic harassment — only push them later. The later a termination is performed, the more risks are involved. While second trimester abortions are both relatively rare and relatively safe, especially early on in that phase, they involve higher risks than do first trimester abortions.” Additionally, she adds, “But causing delays and obstacles are what Kansas legislators are all about.”