Topeka Attorneys for Kansas and Planned Parenthood have reached an agreement over how parts of a new state abortion law will be enforced and are seeking to narrow the organization’s federal lawsuit against that statute to a single issue.
The lawyers filed their agreement Friday in U.S. District Court. If Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil accepts it, Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit will challenge only a requirement that abortion providers include a link on their website home pages to a state health department site about abortion and fetal development, along with a statement that says the information is objective.
Planned Parenthood also initially challenged a requirement of the new law, which took effect in July, to provide women seeking abortions information suggesting that a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy. In addition, the lawsuit attacked a rule enacted in 2011, requiring that information also assert that an abortion terminates “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Under the agreement, the state will consider abortion providers in compliance with the last two requirements by giving patients access to the state health department’s materials, which contain the statements.
Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the organization, which performs abortions at a clinic in Overland Park, worried the state would attempt to force providers to alter their own material for patients to include the statements.
“The state agreed that wasn’t necessary,” Brownlie said. “We consider it a small step forward for Kansas women and providers.”
Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office did not immediately comment on Friday’s filing.
The new law also bans sex-selection abortions, blocks tax breaks for providers, prohibits providers from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools’ classes and declares as a general policy that life begins “at fertilization.” Planned Parenthood isn’t challenging those requirements.
The website-link requirement already has been blocked by a state court judge in a separate lawsuit filed in Shawnee County by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who perform abortions at their Overland Park health center. Hodes and Nauser are challenging the entire law, but the judge in their case allowed most of it to take effect.