Kansas Telemedicine Abortions Not Aborted Just Yet

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Kansas is in a strange place when it comes to abortion. It's by far one of the most restrictive states, and yet the state Supreme Court found in 2019 that the state constitution guarantees the right to abortion. It only has four clinics, but those four clinics have long been a beacon of abortion access in that part of the Midwest. At the beginning of the pandemic, when Texas and Oklahoma barred all surgical procedures, including abortion, pregnant people flocked to those four Kansas abortion clinics in droves. In 2018, the state passed a ban on telemedicine abortions, and ever since then, state courts have been going back and forth on whether or not they can actually do that.

Judge Teresa Watson ruled in 2019 that they could, and denied a request for an injunction against the law from the Trust Women clinic. However, the Kansas Court of Appeals has now overruled Judge Watson's decision:

The majority opinion concluded the lower court "diverged from well-established Kansas caselaw" and abused its discretion with legal and factual errors. Watson also made an "arbitrary and unreasonable" decision to ignore an order in a separate case that dealt with the same issue.

The case was remanded back to the district court to come to a new decision on an injunction that corrects the previous flaws. [...]

The appellate court also reinstated Board of Healing Arts leadership as defendants in the case.
The lower court had dismissed them because the clinic is licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, not the board, despite the fact the board licenses doctors and could take disciplinary action against the licenses of the clinic's physicians.

Alas, while this is good news for now, even if the injunction against the law is granted, it is possible that it won't matter after August, when Kansans will vote on a "constitutional amendment that adds language to the state constitution stating that the document does not provide a right to an abortion," which would then allow the legislature to enact more restrictions or even ban the procedure.

While it may seem inevitable, because it's Kansas, it turns out the majority of Kansans don't actually want to ban abortion. In a recent poll, 50 percent of Kansans said they didn't want the government making any restrictions on abortion, while 60 percent "said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea of banning abortion in all cases, even those involving rape or incest. And 40 percent said they felt conflicted about abortion more broadly, seeing merits in arguments from both sides of the issue."

So it's not exactly a done deal, which is great considering that people from surrounding states are very likely going to have to rely on Kansas and its four abortion clinics in order to avoid being forced to have a baby they don't want. Fingers crossed that voters and the next judge hearing this case are both as reasonable as the Kansas Court of Appeals has been.

[Wichita Capital-Journal]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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