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Planned Parenthood sues over new Kansas abortion law

Updated: 2013-06-21T11:53:50Z

By JOHN HANNA

Associated Press

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, physician 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.”

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent who’s called publicly on legislators to create what he calls a culture of life in Kansas. Legislators approved the new requirements with large, bipartisan majorities in both chambers.

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.

The lawsuit also 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.”

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, said Planned Parenthood is attacking requirements aimed at strengthening a long-standing state law under which a doctor must obtain “informed consent” from a patient before terminating her pregnancy. Kansans for Life officials said the requirement is satisfied if a patient has access to the health department’s information, whether a doctor criticizes it or contradicts it verbally.

“These laws are just so that there’s an opportunity for women to know the facts outside the confines of these businesses. … It’s nothing more than the state protecting its citizens,” Culp said.

Brownlie said Moore and the clinic will ask a court to block the requirements from taking effect July 1 as planned.

“A physician has the right to determine what information is relevant” in treating patients, said Brownlie. He also said the new law “undermines a woman’s ability to trust her doctor.”

But Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, accused Planned Parenthood of “trying to keep information from women.”

“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,” he said.

The new “informed consent” requirements were part of legislation that also will ban sex-selection abortions, block abortion providers from receiving tax breaks that other businesses and organizations receive, and prohibit them from being involved in public school sex-education classes.

The measure also included a declaration that life begins “at fertilization.” Supporters saw that language as a statement of principle and not an outright abortion ban because it later notes that any rights suggested by the wording are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court protecting access to abortion.

Brownlie noted that the tax changes don’t take effect until January. “We are still evaluating those provisions and will make a decision sometime in the future on challenging some of those,” he added.

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