TOPEKA A national abortion rights group announced Thursday that it will sue over revised regulations for abortion providers in Kansas, saying that even with recent changes meant to placate the doctors who have already persuaded a federal judge to block the earlier version, the rules still impose unreasonable and "irrational" requirements.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights represents Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who perform abortions and provide other services at their medical offices in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. The center, on behalf of the doctors, filed a lawsuit in late June, when the Kansas Department of Health and Environment was preparing to enforce new regulations mandated this year by the Legislature.
The first version of the rules told providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and set minimum size requirements for procedure and recovery rooms. The department recently revised the rules, paring down the list of drugs and equipment required and dropping specific sizes for rooms. The state published the revised regulations Thursday and they are set to take effect next month.
A federal judge blocked enforcement of the original regulations until a trial of the doctors' lawsuit. Learning last week that revised regulations would take effect Nov. 14, the judge ordered the parties in the lawsuit to analyze the differences between the two sets of rules.
"While the regulations have been changed in some respects, they are still unacceptable," Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney with center, said in a statement. "They run roughshod over patient confidentiality, and impose unnecessary and unreasonable requirements that will prevent physicians from providing the full range of reproductive health services to the women of Kansas."
A spokesman for the attorney general's office did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. Health department spokeswoman Miranda Steele said the agency had not seen the announcement.
"KDHE will move forward as we can legally, however we need to do our jobs within the rule of law," she said.
The health department wrote both sets of regulations under a law enacted this year requiring clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices performing five or more elective abortions a month to obtain a special, annual license. It was a part of a wave of anti-abortion measures enacted this year across the nation, as abortion opponents capitalized on the election of new, sympathetic Republican governors like Kansas' Sam Brownback.
A third physician, Dr. Ronald Yeomans, who performs abortions at a Kansas City, Kan., clinic was also part of the original lawsuit.