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June 20, 2013

Lawsuit challenges new Kansas abortion law

Kansas abortion providers allege that a law set to take effect July 1 would violate their freedom of speech rights. Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri Inc. and its medical director, physician Orrin Moore, contend in the federal lawsuit that disclosure requirements written into the new law compel abortion providers to approve of the government’s view of abortion.

Kansas abortion providers sued state medical and legal authorities Thursday, alleging that a new law set to take effect July 1 would violate their freedom of speech rights.

Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri Inc. and its medical director, physician Orrin Moore, contend in the federal lawsuit that disclosure requirements written into the new law compel abortion providers to approve of the government’s view of abortion.

“For government officials to force individuals and organizations to publicly endorse the state’s views violates the fundamental principles on which our country is founded,” said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Defendants in the suit are Kimberly Templeton, president of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts; Robert Moser, secretary of the state Department of Health and Environment; Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt; and Stephen M. Howe, district attorney for Johnson County, where a Planned Parenthood clinic is located.

“We will provide a vigorous defense of the statute,” said Clint Blaes, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Brownlie said that if the law goes into effect unchallenged, his organization would have to post a link on its website to a state health department site and label the link as providing “objective, nonjudgmental, scientifically accurate information.”

“We don’t believe it, and that falls into the category of compelled speech, which is a First Amendment violation,” Brownlie said.

The law also would require physicians to tell women that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, even though most abortions performed by Planned Parenthood occur well before that, Brownlie said. Physicians also would have to say that abortion terminates the “life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” which the suit described as “a misleading statement of philosophical and/or religious belief.”

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, noted that states regularly compel private businesses, such as banks and mortgage lenders, to make factual disclosures to their customers.

“Women have to be given facts in order to make an informed choice,” she said.

Kathy Ostrowski, legislative and research director for Kansans for Life, said existing state regulations already require abortion providers to provide much of the information covered by the new state law.

“The doctor is not forced to say anything,” Ostrowski said. “The doctor can put up posters all over his office saying that he disagrees with the state materials.”

The suit asked that the court declare challenged portions of the new law unconstitutional and bar authorities from enforcing it.

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