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Planned Parenthood and Kansas Attorneys Reach Deal on Challenge to Disclosure Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

If accepted by the federal court, Planned Parenthood would narrow its legal challenge to a requirement that providers link to state-sponsored anti-abortion materials on their websites.

On Friday, attorneys for the State of Kansas and Planned Parenthood announced they had reached an agreement over how parts of a new state anti-abortion law will be enforced and are seeking to narrow Planned Parenthood’s federal lawsuit challenging the statute to a single issue.

The agreement outlining the terms of enforcement and the proposed narrower claim was filed Friday in U.S. District Court. If Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil accepts it, Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit will only challenge a requirement that abortion providers include a link on their website home pages to a state health department site about abortion and fetal development, along with a statement that says the information is objective. Planned Parenthood initially challenged another requirement of the law that requires doctors to provide patients seeking abortions information suggesting that a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy. Additionally, the lawsuit challenged a 2011 rule requiring that the information assert that an abortion terminates “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Under the agreement, the state will consider abortion providers in compliance with the last two requirements by giving patients access to the state health department’s materials, which contain the statements, rather than force providers to alter their own materials and information for patients to include these statements.

The website-link requirement already has been blocked by a state court judge in a separate lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights in Shawnee County on behalf of Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser. Hodes and Nauser are challenging the entire law, but the judge in their case allowed most of it to take effect. The new law, which took effect in July, also bans sex-selection abortions, blocks tax breaks for abortion providers, prohibits providers from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools’ classes, and declares as a general policy that life begins “at fertilization.” Planned Parenthood isn’t challenging any of those requirements in its federal lawsuit, and any agreement reached in that lawsuit wouldn’t have an immediate legal impact on the state challenge also proceeding.

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