Kansas Doctors to sue over new abortion clinic rules

By John Hanna

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Three doctors who perform abortions in Kansas will challenge new regulations for their clinics even after the rules were revised to placate the physicians, their attorneys said last week, arguing that the rules still impose unreasonable and "irrational" requirements.

The physicians -- Dr. Herbert Hodes, his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, and Dr. Ronald Yeomans -- already persuaded a federal judge to block the earlier version of the rules. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Hodes and Nauser, and Cheryl Pilate, who represents Yeomans, both said Thursday that they would sue over the revised regulations.

Hodes and Nauser perform abortions and other services at their medical offices in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and Yeomans performs abortions at a Kansas City, Kan., clinic.

The first version of the rules told providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and set minimum size requirements for procedure and recovery rooms. The department recently revised the rules, paring down the list of drugs and equipment required and dropping specific sizes for rooms. The state published the revised regulations Thursday and they are set to take effect Nov. 14.

A federal judge blocked enforcement of the original regulations until a trial of the doctors' lawsuit. Learning last week that revised regulations would take effect next month, the judge ordered the parties in the lawsuit to analyze the differences between the two sets of rules.

"They made some important changes, which is good, but unfortunately, they have left a lot in that is unacceptable," Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the center, said during a telephone interview. "They're still extremely burdensome in multiple ways, so they still do need to be challenged."

The revised regulations retain a rule allowing only a physician to dispense drugs, which Jones said would prevent a physician's assistant from giving over-the-counter pain medication. Also kept was a requirement that providers make all records available for review by the health department, something critics predict will invade patients' privacy.

Pilate also cited a requirement that patients remain in recovery rooms for up to an hour after a procedure, based on how far along their pregnancy was. The original rules specified a two-hour wait, but Pilate said even the revised version is onerous. She said the new rules still have "medically unnecessary restrictions."

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office declined comment. Schmidt is a defendant in the existing lawsuit, as are two county prosecutors in the Kansas City area and the state's secretary of health and environment.

Health department spokeswoman Miranda Steele said the agency had not seen the center's announcement. "KDHE will move forward as we can legally, however we need to do our jobs within the rule of law," she added.

The health department wrote both sets of regulations under a law enacted this year requiring clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices performing five or more elective abortions a month to obtain a special, annual license. It was part of a wave of anti-abortion measures enacted this year across the nation, as abortion opponents capitalized on the election of new, sympathetic Republican governors such as Kansas' Sam Brownback.

The original regulations were temporary because the health department skipped a public hearing to get them in place by July 1, which they said the law required. The revised set was published after a public hearing in September.

Both Yeomans' clinic, Aid for Women, and Hodes' and Nauser's office failed to obtain a license, saying their buildings would need extensive renovations under the original rules. The third abortion provider in Kansas, a Planned Parenthood clinic, also in Overland Park, received a license.

Abortion rights supporters argue the rules are meant to be burdensome enough to discourage doctors and clinics from terminating pregnancies. Abortion opponents argue the rules will protect patients.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said the original rules were "reasonable and state of the art," and abortion providers have no legitimate complaints after their concerns were considered.

Published: Mon, Oct 31, 2011


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