New 'surgical center' law challenged by Planned Parenthood of Kansas

Daily Record and the Kansas City Daily News-Press, Aug 21, 2007 by Kelly Wiese

Planned Parenthood asked a federal court Monday to block new abortion restrictions from taking effect next week.

The Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri chapter sued over a provision in the new law that requires abortion providers to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

The regulations apply to any clinic that provides five or more first-trimester abortions per month or any later abortions.

"The 2007 Amendment was enacted in order to eliminate, or make more difficult, access to abortion in Missouri," claims the lawsuit filed in Jefferson City by attorney Arthur Benson, of the Kansas City firm Arthur Benson and Associates.

A Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is already licensed as a surgical center, but a clinic in Columbia that performs surgical abortions and one in Kansas City that only offers abortions induced by medication are not.

Planned Parenthood's lawsuit claims that the law and state regulations violate the business and its customers' constitutional rights to equal protection and patients' rights to liberty and privacy.

Planned Parenthood said it sought waivers from some of the requirements or to be grandfathered in and not forced to comply unless it makes a major renovation to a clinic, but said the state has not granted those requests.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services, the main defendant in the case as the agency that sets rules for surgical centers, said Monday it had not received the lawsuit yet and could not comment.

Gov. Matt Blunt decried the litigation.

Blunt said in a written statement that the law "provides safeguards for Missouri women by requiring that abortion clinics meet basic safety standards. Planned Parenthood is seeking to overturn this common sense law in an effort to deregulate abortion."

Planned Parenthood argues the rules are especially burdensome for its Kansas City clinic, which performs no surgical procedures. Rather, patients there in the first eight weeks of pregnancy can take one pill on-site, and another later at home, to end the pregnancy.

Ambulatory surgical centers must follow a host of rules governing health and safety standards, and some would require significant and costly renovations, Planned Parenthood says, such as widening hallways and doorways and providing recovery rooms and sterile ways for doctors to scrub in before a procedure.

"How can you require a clinic that doesn't even provide surgeries to meet standards of a surgical center? That's just discriminatory and just a way to attack abortion providers," Planned Parenthood lobbyist Michelle Trupiano said.

If the court does not stop it, the new requirements will take effect in a week, Aug. 28. Planned Parenthood said its Kansas City clinic, known as the Brous Center, would have to stop offering abortion services altogether because the renovations would be too expensive. The Columbia Center would at least have to close some areas for a time to make needed renovations, and increase costs to patients seeking abortions.

The law, passed this spring, also prohibits abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from teaching or providing materials for sex education classes in Missouri public schools. In addition, it places in law a program that directs money to groups that encourage women to give birth rather than having an abortion, but forbids directing funds to abortion providers or family planning services.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order against the law along with, eventually, a declaratory judgment finding it unconstitutional.

The lawsuit is focused just on the surgical center requirements. Other issues will have to be fought separately in court, Trupiano said.

Bibliography for: "New 'surgical center' law challenged by Planned Parenthood of Kansas"

Kelly Wiese "New 'surgical center' law challenged by Planned Parenthood of Kansas". Daily Record and the Kansas City Daily News-Press. 31 Aug, 2009.


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