KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – A father-and-daughter team of obstetrician-gynecologists claims Kansas’ new licensing law – set to take effect July 1 – is an unconstitutional “sham” designed to wipe out all abortions in the state.
They say the state gave physicians an “absurdly short” period of less than 2 weeks to comply with the new “onerous and medically unnecessary regulations.”
“Enforcement of the temporary regulations and licensing process will force plaintiffs to cease their ongoing provision of abortion services in their practice, thereby unjustifiably delaying plaintiffs’ patients in obtaining abortions,” the federal complaint states.
“At the present time, these delays are exacerbated by the fact that plaintiffs do not know of a single licensed abortion provider in the entire state to whom plaintiffs can refer their patients.”
The family medical team, based in Overland Park, claims that Senate Bill 36 enabled the defendant Kansas Department of Health and Environment “through a sham licensing process” to promulgate “onerous and medically unnecessary regulations.”
They add that the state promulgated its regulations “without giving regulated persons and entities notice or an opportunity to be heard, and imposed absurdly short deadlines for compliance with those regulations” – issuing the rules less than 2 weeks before they are to take effect.
“At every step of the challenged process, KDHE implemented the licensing provisions of the Act in ways that made it impossible for existing medical practices to obtain a license by the effective date: (a) KDHE drafted and finalized Temporary Regulations without giving the facilities to be regulated any opportunity to comment on the regulations, despite the lack of any urgent circumstances necessitating that course of action; (b) KDHE included in the Temporary Regulations medically unnecessary, burdensome and inappropriate requirements, such as rigid specifications as to the number, type and dimensions of rooms in the facility, that cannot possibly be achieved in a matter of weeks; (c) KDHE conditioned licensure upon compliance with the Temporary Regulations, which were not sent to abortion providers until after the close of business on June 17, 2011, less than two weeks before the Act was to take effect; and (d) KDHE refused to consider waiver requests, provisional licensing, or any other accommodations for existing facilities,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say their medical practice provides 25 percent of the abortions reported in Kansas. The daughter joined her father’s firm 13 years ago and has practiced with him ever since.
Among the “burdensome and medically unnecessary” requirements, they say, are that the law requires abortion providers to have procedure rooms of at least 150 square feet, janitorial storage space at least the equivalent of 50 square feet per examination room, designated patient dressing rooms with a toilet, and unnecessary medical equipment such as pediatric-sized ventilation masks and defibrillator paddles.
“The temporary regulations impose more stringent requirements than those imposed by the state on providers of comparable medical procedures,” the complaint states. “Moreover, in many respects (including the physical facility requirements), the temporary regulations impose more stringent requirements than those imposed on providers that perform much more complex and risky procedures, such as hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
The plaintiffs add that the size of their building makes it impossible for them to comply with the new regulations, and that Kansas gave them an “absurdly short” 9 business days to bring their clinic into compliance.
The plaintiffs say their center is one of only three clinics that regularly provide abortions in Kansas. Another one already has been denied a license under the new law, and the other has been inspected but has not received a license.
If the status quo remains on July 1, the closest abortion provider will be a Planned Parenthood in Columbia, Mo., which performs only first-trimester abortions; the closest clinic that performs second-trimester abortions is a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, the complaint states.
The plaintiffs want the law declared unconstitutional in violation of the plaintiffs’ and their patients’ rights under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The plaintiffs are represented by Teresa Woody of Kansas City, Mo.
Named as defendants are Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.