News Abortion

More Charges Against Kansas City Planned Parenthood Dismissed

Robin Marty

Over two dozen charges regarding abortions performed nearly a decade ago have been dismissed by a dstrict judge.

Note: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. Eastern to provide an update on the state of the suit regarding Kansas’s TRAP bill.

A witch hunt that began with former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is drawing closer to an eventual conclusion, as another 26 charges against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas have been dismissed by a district judge.

Via The Associated Press:

A Kansas judge on Thursday dismissed 26 misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic, honoring a prosecutor’s request to further narrow a criminal case over allegations the clinic performed illegal late-term abortions.

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Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe confirmed Thursday night that District Judge Stephen Tatum signed an order late in the afternoon at Howe’s request. Tatum’s action is noted in online court records, but without any details.

Attorneys for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park had requested in March to have the same charges dismissed. The clinic’s attorneys argued that the charges — covering 13 abortions in 2003 — were filed beyond a two-year deadline for pursuing charges in effect when the pregnancies were terminated.

“Basically, we don’t dispute their contention,” Howe told The Associated Press.

The charges were part of over 100 that were filed against the clinic by then-state Attorney General Phill Kline, who was determined to find the clinic guilty of a crime in order to shut it down. Remaining charges involve accusations that the clinic violated a Kansas law regarding abortions after viability, which the clinic denies. 

Kansas formerly allowed late abortions in the case of endangering the health of the woman or girl carrying the fetus. The law was later amended to deny abortions to women on grounds of mental health. 

Kansas has had no provider of late abortion care since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

In other Kansas news, the State sought to have a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Center for Women’s Health, the practice of Drs. Herb Hodes and Traci Nauser, dismissed. The suit was filed in response to the state’s new TRAP legislation, which is meant to close the clinic by enforcing costly and medically unnecessary modifications to the building and way abortions are performed there.  A district court judge turned down the request for a dismissal and said the suit could continue to proceed, and that the temporary restraining order on the law would stay intact.

“These regulations have never been anything more than an underhanded attempt to make it impossible for Kansas women to exercise their constitutionally protected reproductive rights,” Bonnie Scott Jones, special counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said via statement. “Politicians have absolutely no business inserting themselves between women and their reproductive health care providers. With today’s decision, the dedicated physicians challenging this law will have their day in court to stand up for their own rights and the rights of their patients.” The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the clinic owners in their suit.

The ongoing legal fights are a reminder that in many cases, the judiciary can act as the final arbitrator when it comes to anti-choice legislation and lawsuits. Which makes it unsurprising that new candidates for office in the state are now running on a platform of revamping the judicial selection process, arguing that the governor should have the direct right to appoint judges and have their approved by the senate, rather than by a more potentially bipartisan committee as the state currently uses.

News Family Planning

Judge Thwarts Ohio GOP’s Attack on Planned Parenthood Funding

Michelle D. Anderson

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

An effort to defund Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates by Gov. John Kasich (R) and the Republican-held legislature has come to an end.

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio on Friday ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, granting a permanent injunction on an anti-choice state law.

The court ruling will keep Richard Hodges, the Ohio Department of Health director, from enforcing HB 294.

The 2015 law, sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County), would have redirected $1.3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood’s 28 clinics in Ohio.

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The law would have required the state department to keep federal funds and materials that the health department receives from being distributed to entities that perform or promote non-therapeutic abortions, or maintain affiliation with any entity that does.

Funding that would’ve been cut off from the state health department went to the Violence Against Women and Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention acts, the Infertility Prevention Project, Minority HIV/AIDS and Infant Mortality Reduction initiatives, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit argued that the Republican legislation violated the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Barrett had temporarily blocked the law after Planned Parenthood affiliates filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction. The judge had issued an opinion contending that some legislators passed the law to make it difficult for people to access abortion care, as Rewire reported.

Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, praised the judge’s temporary order.

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” Harvey said in a statement.

Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro Choice Ohio’s executive director, said in a statement that the Ohio legislature passed the anti-choice measure in an effort to appeal to conservative voters in early primary states during Kasich’s presidential campaign.

Copeland said that while the legislation made no effort to reduce the number of abortions performed, “it actively blocked critical health care for low-income women and families.”

Planned Parenthood said those services included 70,000 free STD screenings, thousands of HIV tests for at-risk community residents, and the largest infant mortality prevention program in the state.

In the 23-page court order and opinion, Barrett, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the law would have deterred “patients from seeking these potentially life-saving services.”

Planned Parenthood noted that the recent ruling in Ohio makes it among the ten states where courts have blocked anti-choice laws following June’s landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

News Abortion

Abortion Providers Could Recoup Millions From Wisconsin After Fighting Unconstitutional Anti-Choice Law

Michelle D. Anderson

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women's Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services.

Abortion providers serving Wisconsin residents could recoup nearly $1.8 million in legal fees they amassed while fighting an anti-choice law that was first blocked in 2013. However, spokespeople for the State of Wisconsin have raised the possibility of an undisclosed settlement.

In a U.S. District Court filing dated July 28, the providers requested an award of “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses” that could be recouped under the Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fee Awards Act of 1976. On Wednesday in response, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel asked the court to extend the due date for the state to respond from August 18 to September 1. The request was granted, according to court documents.

“The parties are currently discussing settlement of the plaintiffs’ motion. An extension of the briefing schedule would allow the parties the opportunity to explore the possibility of a settlement of this issue,” Schimel said in the court filing.

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women’s Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services. The sum requested includes $1.7 million in attorneys’ fees, $44,253 in billable costs and $22,545 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to the court filing.

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The providers amassed the fees fighting Wisconsin Act 37 of 2013, a Republican-initiated law that required doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the location where an abortion was to be performed.

U.S. District Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin blocked the law’s enforcement soon after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed it in 2013.

The state attorney general twice appealed to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision both times; the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to take the case a day after overturning a similar provision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

In a Court of Appeals opinion issued in November 2015, the court said there was no evidence that “transfer agreements provide inferior protection to the health of women undergoing abortion compared to admitting privileges.” The opinion concluded by saying the unconstitutional statute was burdensome and curtailed citizens’ constitutional right to an abortion.

“The statute may not be irrational, yet may still impose an undue burden—a burden excessive in relation to the aims of the statute and the benefits likely to be conferred by it— and if so it is unconstitutional,” the court said.

If not blocked, the law would have forced pregnant people in various parts of the state to travel at least an extra 200 miles round trip to access legal abortion, according to a previous Rewire report.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesperson for Schimel, had indicated in statements to the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this month that the state would fight the charges for legal fees. He said Schimel would challenge the providers’ request “to ensure that the state is not paying more than it should be for those fees,” according to local news reports.

Koremenos did not respond to Rewire’s request for comment.

Walker also supported fighting the fees, his spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel.

Ismael Ozanne, the district attorney for Dane County, was also named as a defendant in the providers’ lawsuit, along with several state medical examining board members.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin spokeswoman Iris Riis told Rewire the money Planned Parenthood is seeking in this case is only a recoup of the legal fees already spent fighting the unconstitutional admitting privileges law.

“There would not be any leftover money to allocate to services or any fund. It would just cover what was already spent. Governor Walker’s administration appealed multiple definitive rulings, wasting countless taxpayer dollars in the process. That action also drove up our legal costs,” Riis said.

Riis said the plaintiffs do not know when Conley will issue the ruling that will determine whether Schimel will have to compensate them for legal fees.

Andrew Wiseman, a deputy clerk in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, told Rewire the court could not offer a prediction about the date of Conley’s ruling.

Affiliated Medical Services, which operates a clinic in Milwaukee, is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, while private attorneys are representing Planned Parenthood.

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