Topeka Kansas has taken only a few weeks to draft new abortion clinic regulations and plans to decide by July whether to give the state's three existing clinics the licenses they need to continue operating, according to documents released Tuesday.
The top executive for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid Missouri said he's concerned imposing the new regulations so quickly will force all three clinics to shut down. The Planned Parenthood chapter operates one of the three clinics, all of which are in the Kansas City area.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent Planned Parenthood a letter earlier this month saying its clinic would be inspected and notified by July 1 whether it would have a license. The other clinics received similar letters.
The Associated Press filed an open records request last week, seeking copies of the department's correspondence with the clinics. Planned Parenthood provided its copies of the letters, shortly before the agency released them. Both also provided a copy of the latest version of the new regulations, dated Friday, the same day clinics were required to apply for their licenses.
Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter's president and chief executive officer, said it is consulting with its attorneys about filing a lawsuit over the regulations and the process used to impose them.
"Certainly, it's unfair," Brownlie said. "It is rushed. It is disorderly. It is confused."
Department spokeswoman Miranda Myrick said the process for imposing the regulations has been "appropriate." Supporters of imposing the rules on the clinics argue they'll protect their patients against potentially substandard care.
But Brownlie and Jeff Pederson, administrator of the Aid for Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan., said they don't trust the regulatory process because Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent, and fellow abortion foes pushed for the new rules.
"I already know the $500 I spent is wasted," Pederson said, referring to the annual licensing fee required of clinics. "They have a mandate from God, and they need to make political hay while they have control of the House and Senate and they have the governor's mansion."
The health department is imposing the rules under a law enacted this year by the GOP-dominated Legislature and signed into law by Brownback last month. The clinics received their first letters, telling them regulations were coming, on May 26, or 10 days after the signing.
A June 9 letter to the clinics came with draft regulations and said, "You will be notified of our decision to approve or deny your facility for licensing on or before July 1, 2011."
Four days later, the department sent another letter, saying a revised version of the same regulations would be sent to the clinics, the ones dated June 17. Brownlie said Planned Parenthood's copy arrived Monday; Pederson said his clinic received its copy Tuesday.
Officials at the Center for Women's Health, in Overland Park, did not respond immediately to a telephone message seeking comment.
Brownlie said though he believes Planned Parenthood's clinic, also in Overland Park, can meet the new regulations, he's not sure what issues will be raised by the inspection, scheduled for Wednesday, and whether Planned Parenthood or any other clinic operators will have adequate time to address perceived deficiencies.
Pederson said his clinic's inspection hasn't been set.
The new law requires annual inspections of each clinic. It also directs the health department to set standards for exits, lighting, bathrooms and equipment. The agency not only will issue annual licenses but have the power to fine clinics and could go to court to shut them down.
"The agency has been careful to follow the procedures and requirements set forth," Myrick said.