Editor's note: This editorial did not appear in the print edition of the Journal-World because it became outdated by events that occurred shortly before its publication.
Six years after Kansas became known as the state that wouldn’t allow evolution to be taught in its schools, the state now is gaining national attention for its efforts to become the first state in the nation without a clinic licensed to perform abortions.
What was portrayed in the Kansas Legislature as a measure to protect the safety of women undergoing abortion procedures is being used as a tool to try to shut down clinics. Thirty-six pages of regulations concerning everything from the size of the janitor’s closet to the temperature range in procedure rooms were written in record time by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The rules were sent to the state’s three clinics only days before inspections to evaluate their compliance and about 10 days before the clinics could legally be closed for noncompliance.
Although various restrictions have been added over the years, abortion continues to be a legal procedure in the United States. However, Kansas legislators approved — and Gov. Sam Brownback signed — this law that now is being used to make the issue of legality of abortion moot by simply closing clinics and eliminating that choice for Kansas women who can’t, for financial or other reasons, go out of state for treatment.
The process by which this action has been undertaken makes questionable the stated interest in protecting the health of women patients. There are hundreds of clinics in Kansas performing a variety of outpatient surgical procedures. Is the state less concerned about the safety of patients at those clinics than of patients at three specific clinics in the Kansas City area? If safety is the issue, clinics should be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the new regulations. (By comparison, if the state finds serious deficiencies while inspecting, for instance, a Kansas nursing home, the facility is given time to correct those deficiencies rather than being closed.)
At least one clinic that performs abortions has filed a lawsuit challenging the new licensing law and regulations, and it appears this battle now will be fought out in court using both clinic and taxpayer dollars.
The situation has drawn plenty of attention to Kansas but perhaps not the kind of attention many Kansans relish. Abortion continues to be a controversial and divisive issue across the nation, but the process and regulations being imposed in Kansas are stirring an additional controversy of their own.