Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2011

U.S. district judge bars doctors’ group from joining Kansas abortion case

September 29, 2011


— A federal judge on Thursday refused to allow a national anti-abortion doctors’ group to join a lawsuit challenging Kansas’ abortion clinic regulations, ruling that its intervention would unnecessarily delay the case.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia shot down every argument raised by American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists in its effort to appeal his decision blocking enforcement of the new rules. The AAPLOG said in its filing that it appealed the temporary injunction, even though it wasn’t a party to the case, because the state of Kansas hadn’t done so.

At issue is a new Kansas law that requires abortion providers to obtain a special annual license. It also imposes strict new health department regulations that specify what drugs and equipment abortion clinics must stock and sets requirements for room sizes and temperatures, among other things.

Two of the state’s three abortion providers sued after they were unable to meet the new standards, and Murguia on July 1 blocked the rules until the lawsuit is resolved.

AAPLOG claimed it had legal standing in the case because its members in Kansas are losing childbirth-related business to abortion clinics. It also contended that its members are placed at a competitive disadvantage because abortion providers pass along the costs of any complications or medical care after abortions to other doctors.

Murguia disagreed. The judge wrote in his decision that the doctors compete with other doctors who perform childbirth services — they do not compete with abortion providers.

To make such as argument, he reasoned, the AAPLOG would have to assume its members’ medical practices may financially benefit from the Kansas laws because fewer women would be able to have abortions and would seek care from one of the organization’s doctors.

The judge said that interest is too remote and speculative, adding that AAPLOG’s chain of reasoning is “tenuous and does not establish a credible competitive economic interest.”

Murguia was equally dismissive of the group’s argument that absent the more restrictive Kansas abortion clinic licensing law, its members would be at an economic disadvantage because abortion providers shift the costs of complications and follow-up care to others.

AAPLOG failed to provide any concrete examples of such cost-shifting or any specific statistics to support the claim, the judge said.

“This evidence is vague and deficient in several respects,” he wrote.

The group’s argument that the state of Kansas inadequately represented the AAPLOG’s interest by failing to seek to narrow the preliminary injunction or appeal it also fell short of convincing Murguia.

“But these issues are merely a disagreement with defendants’ litigation strategy and are not a genuine concern about inadequate representation,” Murguia wrote.

His ruling also noted that allowing AAPLOG to intervene would allow numerous third parties to seek intervention on the same basis.

“To the extent AAPLOG moves to intervene to request reconsideration of the preliminary injunction and possibly appeal, the court determines that these actions will also unnecessarily delay the underlying lawsuit and prejudice the parties,” Murguia said.


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