Kansas physicians challenge law requiring public release of patients’ reasons for abortions

Written by on May 21, 2024

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(TOPEKA, Kan.) — Kansas physicians are legally challenging a new state law that would require them to ask and publicly report patients’ reasons for seeking abortion care as well as other personal information.

A lawsuit claims the law “directly interferes with Kansans’ bodily autonomy and their fundamental right to make their own decisions about health care,” according the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the physicians.

The new law is lawmakers’ latest attempt to regulate the procedure after Kansas voters, defying expectations, voted to protect abortion rights by upholding a state constitutional right to abortion — with an overwhelming majority — in a 2022 ballot initiative.

Abortion care is allowed in Kansas up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The new legal challenge has been added to an ongoing lawsuit against the state attorney general and district attorneys over other abortion restrictions in the state, including state-mandated abortion counseling they claim is medically inaccurate; a law requiring physicians tell patients the “false and dangerous” claim that it is possible to reverse medication abortions; and a state-required 24-hour waiting period before patients can access care, according to the CRR.

Anti-abortion lawmakers in the state House and Senate bypassed a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, advancing House Bill 2749 into law without her signature.

“There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the legislature if they have been a victim of abuse, rape, or incest prior to obtaining an abortion. There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the legislature why she is seeking an abortion,” Kelly said in a letter to the legislature.

“I refuse to sign legislation that goes against the will of the majority of Kansans who spoke loudly on Aug. 2, 2022: Kansans don’t want politicians involved in their private medical decisions,” Kelly wrote.

Kansas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that requested the legislation be introduced, and the state attorney general did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

What’s in the new law?

The law requires physicians to collect personal information about patients receiving abortion care and provide them to the state in a public report twice a year.

While the report of abortions will not include the names of patients who sought or received the care, it requires other personal information including their age, marital status, state or country of residence, race and highest level of education.

Under the new law, physicians are required to ask patients seeking abortion care what the most important factor was in determining why they sought care, except in cases of medical emergencies.

A list of factors for physicians to read patients include: “Having a baby would interfere with the patient’s education, employment or career; the patient cannot provide for the child; the patient already has enough, or too many, children; the patient’s husband or partner is abusive to such patient or such patient’s children,” according to the law.

Other reasons include rape, incest, risk to the health of the mother and that the child would have a disability.

The law requires “the reporting of the reasons for each abortion performed at a medical care facility or by a healthcare provider in the state,” according to the law.

Medical facilities will have to keep written records of all “lawfully terminated” pregnancies and submit a written report twice a year to the secretary of health and environment, the law said. The reports must also include sworn statements by physicians who perform abortions.

The reports will have to include the medical diagnosis and condition that would result in a “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function or the medical diagnosis and condition that necessitated performance of an abortion to preserve the life of the patient,” according to the law.

Other information physicians will need to fill out in the report include method of abortion care, whether the patient has received financial assistance from a nonprofit that supports pregnant women in the last 30 days, whether the patient has experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months and if the patient is living in a safe, stable and affordable place, according to the law.

The identities of physicians and medical facilities who fill out the report are to remain confidential unless the secretary of health and environment finds reasonable cause that the law was violated, is requesting disciplinary action and reveals the information to the state board of healing arts or a state attorney general.

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