News Abortion

Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Kansas TRAP Law

Jodi Jacobson

Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia temporarily blocked the state of Kansas from enforcing new regulations created under the guise of "protecting women," but in fact aimed at shutting clinics and medical offices providing abortion care.

Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia temporarily blocked the state of Kansas from enforcing new regulations created under the guise of “protecting women,” but in fact aimed at shutting clinics and medical offices providing abortion care.

The regulations, an example of what are known as Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers or TRAP laws, would require clinics to meet medically unnecessary conditions to maintain their operating licences, by for example mandating specific sizes for a janitorial closet.

The new law would require hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices to obtain an annual license from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to perform more than five non-emergency abortions in a month. The regulations tell abortion providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and, among other things, establish minimum sizes and acceptable temperatures for procedure and recovery rooms. 

The injunction will remain in effect until a trial is held in a lawsuit challenging the Kansas rules. The new law and regulations would otherwise have taken effect on Friday and would have resulted in closure of two out of three clinics offering abortion in Kansas for failure to meet what were hastily crafted and changing regulations. The lawsuit was filed was filed earlier this week by Drs. Hodes and Nauser of the Center for Women’s Health, Aid for Women in Kansas City, and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. PPKM withdrew from the suit yesterday when it was able to prove it met even the most unreasonable criteria and received a license from the state board.

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In blocking the law, according to NPR, Murguia said evidence presented in court documents showed the providers would “suffer irreparable harm” through the loss of business and patients, and that at least two women currently seeking abortions would be harmed by not being able to go to the provider of their choice.

In response to the injunction, Julie Burkhart, founder and executive director of Trust Women PAC, and a former colleague of murdered Kansas doctor, George Tiller, said:

We are pleased that U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia has put an injunction on the onerous rules and regulations put in place by the Kansas Legislature and Governor Brownback. This will enable the court system to adequately assess the true intent of this law. Currently, as the rules and regulations are written, they do very little to ensure equitable health care for Kansas women; but rather, these regulations prevent pregnant women from receiving quality health care.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization which brought the lawsuit on behalf of Drs. Hodes and Nauser, said:

This is a tremendous victory for women in Kansas and against the underhanded efforts of anti-choice politicians to shut down abortion providers in the state. The facts were clear—this licensing process had absolutely nothing to do with patient health or safety and everything to do with political ideology.

Still, as Northup noted, the case isn’t over yet, and neither is the assault on women’s most fundamental rights.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.

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