Group chal­lenges Kansas ef­fort to ban telemedicine abor­tions

Tampa Bay Times - - Nation & World - As­so­ci­ated Press

WI­CHITA, Kan. — A group that sup­ports abor­tion rights on Thurs­day filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing a Kansas ban on telemedicine abor­tions, a prac­tice that al­lows women in ru­ral ar­eas to get abor­tion pills with­out an in-of­fice con­sul­ta­tion in a city clinic.

The Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights con­tends the anti-abor­tion sec­tion in the Kansas Telemedicine Act is un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause it treats women seek­ing abor­tions dif­fer­ently from other pa­tients seek­ing med­i­cal care through telemedicine. It also ar­gues the pro­vi­sion cre­ates an un­due bur­den to abor­tion ac­cess.

If the ban takes ef­fect Jan. 1 as sched­uled, doc­tors would have to be phys­i­cally present when a woman takes med­i­ca­tion to end her preg­nancy, the group con­tends.

The Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights filed its law­suit on be­half of Trust Women Wi­chita, which has op­er­ated a clinic of­fer­ing re­pro­duc­tive health care, in­clud­ing abor­tions, since 2013.

“This ban hurts Kansas women by man­dat­ing that they must travel far­ther and pay more in gas, child care, lost wages and lodg­ing to ac­cess nec­es­sary med­i­cal care,” Julie Burkhart, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Trust Women, said in a news re­lease. “Med­i­ca­tion abor­tion is safe whether pro­vided in­per­son or by telemedicine.”

The Kansas at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, which rep­re­sents the state in law­suits, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

The com­plaint filed in Shawnee County Dis­trict Court ar­gues that 97 per­cent of Kansas coun­ties in 2014 were with­out a sin­gle clinic that pro­vides abor­tions, and more than half of Kansas women live in those coun­ties. The five clin­ics in Kansas that of­fer abor­tion ser­vices are all in Wi­chita or sub­ur­ban Kansas City.

Trust Women re­cently be­gan pro­vid­ing med­i­ca­tion abor­tion via telemedicine to ex­pand ac­cess to the clinic’s ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. Be­fore Trust Women in­tro­duced telemedicine, the clinic was able to pro­vide abor­tion care two days a week be­cause its physi­cians had to travel to Wi­chita. Telemedicine al­lowed it to of­fer the ser­vice on ad­di­tional week­days and Satur­days.

The Kansas Telemedicine Act re­quires in­sur­ances com­pa­nies in Kansas to cover health care ser­vices pro­vided through telemedicine if in­sur­ance al­ready cov­ers the ser­vices dur­ing per­sonal vis­its to a doc­tor. The law aims to im­prove ac­cess to health care in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties and ru­ral ar­eas. Abor­tion op­po­nents in­sisted the telemedicine bill in­clude lan­guage for­bid­ding abor­tion by telemedicine.

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