News Law and Policy

Judge Rules Kansas Medical Board Wrongly Revoked Dr. Neuhaus’ Medical License

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A state court ruled the evidence did not support claims Dr. Neuhaus provided inadequate medical care.

Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus has long been a target of anti-choice activists for her work assisting the late Dr. George Tiller, providing him second opinions on some pregnancy terminations as required under Kansas law. Because of her work with Tiller, in 2006 Operation Rescue activists filed a complaint against Neuhaus with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, the medical licensing board that eventually revoked Neuhaus’ medical license. Just this week, a Kansas judge overturned that revocation in a decision that illustrates the deeply political campaign waged against medical professionals in states with anti-choice activists appointed to medical review boards.

As reported by the Associated Press, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis ruled specifically that the State Board of Healing Arts had failed to show that mental health exams provided by Neuhaus in 2003 were inadequate. Operation Rescue had challenged Neuhaus’ records of exams provided to 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, who needed abortion care. The complaint before the board claimed Neuhaus’ sparse records proved that she had failed to meet the standard of care in diagnosing each of the 11 patients with a serious mental health issue and that abortion was advisable.

Neuhaus defended her care and argued that she kept many details of those patients and exams out of record for concerns over patient privacy. Judge Theis ultimately agreed with Neuhaus and ruled that while her record keeping was deficient, the conclusion reached by the hearing officer of the state’s medical board that Nehaus’ care was inadequate came “solely on an inference” from problems with those records. “In this Court’s view, such an inference is too slim, too frail, and too conjectural to support any of his conclusions reached beyond a breach of adequate record keeping,” the court wrote.

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts can appeal the decision to the state court of appeals or it can vote to start over and take up Neuhaus’ case again. Should Neuhaus want to practice medicine in the state again, even after this order, she will have to file paperwork with the board to be licensed again.

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Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

News Abortion

Kansas Planned Parenthood Investigation Found No Wrongdoing, Governor Still Wants to Cut Funding

Jenn Stanley

Like many across the country, an investigation in Kansas found that Planned Parenthood was not involved with the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

Kansas’ medical board found no wrongdoing in yet another state investigation into whether Planned Parenthood engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue; the results of that investigation were released last week. Even so, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) announced his plans Tuesday to cut all Medicaid funding for the health-care organization.

“After careful review of the investigative materials, the Panel determined no further action would be taken at this time; however the materials will be kept on file and reviewed again in the event future issues arise,” Dan Riley, State Board of Healing Arts disciplinary attorney, wrote in a letter to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

“We absolutely feel vindicated by this,” Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in a press statement regarding the findings.

Brownback joined many lawmakers last year when he launched the investigation to find out whether the state’s Planned Parenthood was illegally selling donated fetal tissue, after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice front group, released secretly recorded, highly edited videos making the widely discredited allegations.

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All of these investigations have turned up no wrongdoing, but that hasn’t stopped GOP-dominated legislatures around the country from trying to defund Planned Parenthood.

In Kansas, many anti-choice lawmakers refuse to accept the findings.

“I think the Board of Healing Arts should take another look,” state Sen. Jake LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) told the Associated Press.

McQuade told Rewire that the governor knew that the medical board had cleared Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic of wrongdoing in its letter, dated January 7. Yet during his State of the State address earlier this week, Brownback still cited the organization’s alleged “trafficking of baby body parts.”

McQuade told Rewire that she worries that these statements by the governor are misleading to Kansans.

“I have deep concerns that a governor would knowingly continue to use false information,” McQuade told Rewire. “The defamation piece is bad in and of itself, but to use that as the basis to make a dramatic policy to cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program in Kansas is outrageous.”

Officials from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and other abortion providers in the state have said that they don’t even have programs that allow legal donations of fetal tissue. Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit against CMP, charging that along with multiple co-conspirators, CMP and its leaders engaged in illegal conduct including racketeering, fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording, and trespassing.

“CMP fabricated a story about Planned Parenthood’s practices, which fueled a toxic environment across the country and right here at home in Kansas and Missouri,” McQuade said in a statement regarding the lawsuit. “Emboldened by CMP’s fabrication, Governor Sam Brownback, in his 2016 State of the State address knowingly made false statements against Planned Parenthood and used those false statements to justify defunding the organization in the state of Kansas.”

Planned Parenthood only operates one of Kansas’ three abortion clinics, which is located in Overland Park. There is one other abortion clinic in Overland Park and one in Wichita. McQuade told Rewire that the GOP-dominated legislature’s extreme conservative social agenda has made the state hostile territory for those seeking and providing abortion services. She added that Brownback’s attack on Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood goes beyond women’s access to reproductive health care.

“It’s also a vehicle to push his agenda of limiting health access,” McQuade said. “Other health outcomes in the state are significantly lower than in other parts of the country because of this hostility toward the government’s role in ensuring that people in this state, regardless of income level, have access to the health care they need.”