TOPEKA, Kan. — The chief federal judge in Kansas refused Sunday to temporarily block parts of a new state abortion law, including a requirement that providers’ websites link to a state site with information they dispute.
But U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil’s ruling Sunday in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood came after a state judge ruled Friday in a separate challenge that Kansas couldn’t enforce the website requirement for now. Vratil noted the previous ruling, which was filed by two doctors, in concluding that Planned Parenthood would not suffer irreparable harm if she didn’t do the same. The rule was to take effect Monday.
Under the law, a provider’s home page will have to provide a link to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment site on abortion and fetal development and contain a statement that the state’s information is “objective” and “scientifically accurate.” Abortion providers object because the state’s information says that a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy, while the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there’s no evidence for such an assertion.
Supporters of the new requirement contend it ensures that women who are considering abortions have access to multiple sources of information about fetal development, the risks of abortion and alternatives to it.
But providers contend requiring them to declare that the state’s information is accurate and objective violates their free-speech rights. Planned Parenthood is pursuing its federal lawsuit on behalf of a clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park that performs abortions and the clinic’s medical director.
The state-court lawsuit was filed by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who terminate pregnancies at their health center, also in Overland Park. Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty’s order blocking the website rule will state in effect until the doctors’ lawsuit is resolved.
The website rule is part of a sweeping law approved by legislators this year that also bans sex-selection abortions, blocks tax breaks for providers, prohibits them from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools’ classes and declares as a general policy that life begins “at fertilization.” Planned Parenthood didn’t challenge those parts of the law, and Crotty refused to temporarily block their enforcement.