Topeka — The chief federal judge for Kansas on Monday set what she called an aggressive schedule for a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against parts of a new state abortion law dealing with providers’ websites and what information they must provide to patients before terminating pregnancies.
Judge Kathryn Vratil outlined the schedule as most of the law took effect. The schedule would allow a hearing on the merits of Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge to begin July 29 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
Vratil ordered Planned Parenthood to file written legal arguments by July 16 and set a July 19 deadline for the state’s response. Planned Parenthood would then have until July 22 to file an additional reply.
“The Court sets this aggressive briefing schedule to accommodate the parties’ request to expedite a ruling on the merits,” Vratil wrote.
Vratil refused Sunday to prevent state officials from enforcing the provisions of the law being challenged by Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions at an Overland Park clinic. Planned Parenthood officials have yet to comment publicly on Vratil’s decision, despite requests for comment Monday.
However, in a separate state-court lawsuit by two doctors, a judge in Shawnee County temporarily blocked one of the requirements. It mandates that providers have a link on their websites to a state health department site on abortion and fetal development with a statement that the department’s information is objective and accurate.
Providers dispute information on the state’s site. They object to material suggesting a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy, when the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said as recently as last month that there’s no evidence of it.
Planned Parenthood also is challenging another provision that patients waiting for an abortion receive information with the same statements about the ability of a fetus to feel pain, as well as a statement that abortion ends the life of a “whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Providers contend the provisions violate their free-speech rights. Supporters of the law argue that they’re designed to ensure that women considering abortion have multiple sources of information about its risks and fetal development.
Other parts of the law ban sex-selection abortions, block tax breaks for providers and prohibit them from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools’ human sexuality courses.