TOPEKA — Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Thursday over a new Kansas law requiring doctors to inform women seeking abortions that they're ending the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being."
Planned Parenthood's clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and its director, Dr. Orrin Moore, contend in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that the law violates doctors' free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They say the statement that an abortion terminates the life of a separate human being requires them to make "a misleading statement of philosophical and/or religious belief."
The new Kansas requirements take effect next month.
"It's called compelled speech, which is a violation of the First Amendment," Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter's president and chief executive officer, said during an interview. "The Legislature is attempting to force us to endorse the political views of the governor and his allies."
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is also attacking a provision of the law that requires its website to link to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment site on abortion and fetal development. Planned Parenthood contends it is required to endorse the health department's message.
Also, the lawsuit challenges a requirement that abortion patients receive information that a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week following fertilization. Planned Parenthood contends that statement is misleading but noted in its lawsuit that "all or virtually all" of the patients terminating pregnancies at its clinic do so before the 20th week, making the information "irrelevant."
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent who's called publicly on legislators to create a "culture of life" in Kansas. Legislators approved the new restrictions with large, bipartisan majorities in both chambers.
"I don't understand how it is a violation of the First Amendment when you are informing people, you are actually telling people what is going on," said Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. "They are the ones who are trying to keep information from the women."