Topeka — Several abortion providers on Wednesday asked the Kansas health department to scrap some of its new regulations for them, and an attorney for two physicians who've sued over the rules suggested the state has an opportunity to end their lawsuit.
But leaders of three anti-abortion groups testified during a Kansas Department of Health and Environment hearing that the rules are reasonable in telling providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and setting minimum temperature and sizes for procedure and recovery rooms. Supporters of the rules also rejected the providers' arguments that they were rushed.
A federal judge has blocked enforcement of the rules until he decides the federal lawsuit. The department initially skipped having a public hearing and considering changes so that the regulations could be in place by July, but they're set to expire Oct. 29 unless it goes through that process.
Even officials from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which isn't involved in the lawsuit and has received a health department license to continue performing abortions at its suburban Kansas City clinic, told the health department that the regulations are filled with unnecessary requirements that do nothing to protect women's health.
"The fact that regulations can be met does not mean they should be met," said Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter's president and chief executive officer.
Drs. Herbert Hodes, and his daughter, Traci Nauser, submitted a detailed statement saying many of the new requirements are "medically unnecessary" and designed to put operations like theirs out of business. They filed the federal lawsuit in June, just before the health department said their Center for Women's Health, also in Overland Park, would not be licensed to continue performing abortions.
The department has said it will consider suggested changes, but abortion rights advocates are skeptical because Gov. Sam Brownback is an anti-abortion Republican who's already called the rules reasonable. Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Hodes and Nauser, said if the department rewrites the regulations enough, "There shouldn't need to be litigation."
"This is not a done deal," she said. "This is an opportunity for them."
Abortion rights advocates also had a Statehouse rally Wednesday to protest the regulations.
But supporters of the new regulations believe they'll protect patients from substandard care and are comparable or even less strict than standards in other states that previously have been upheld by the courts.
"These abortion clinic regulations are a long time coming," said Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. "Quite frankly, Kansas has been in the Dark Ages when it comes to abortion clinic regulations."