A Kansas judge has blocked a new state law that required abortion providers to tell patients that medication abortions can be reversed, and also suspended older laws that mandated a 24-hour waiting period and certain information for patients.
The ruling, issued on Friday by Judge Teresa Watson of the Shawnee County District Court, is a victory for abortion rights advocates in Kansas, where voters confirmed the state constitution’s protection of abortion access in August 2022.
Judge Watson said the state’s ability to legislate based on its moral views is limited by the constitution, and that the laws violated the rights of women to bodily autonomy, privacy, and equal protection.
“The court finds that defendants have failed to demonstrate any benefit to women’s health from these laws, and that they impose an undue burden on women seeking abortions in Kansas,” she wrote in her order.
The order will remain in effect until a trial in June 2024, which will determine whether the laws are constitutional or not.
The new law on abortion pills was passed in April 2023 and was based on a disputed claim that medication abortions can be reversed by taking progesterone after the first of two pills. The law required doctors to inform patients of this possibility and provide them with a hotline number and a website for more information.
However, medical experts have said that there is no credible evidence that abortion reversal is possible or safe, and that the law was misleading and potentially harmful.
“The idea of abortion reversal is not supported by science. There is no credible, medically accepted evidence that a medication abortion can be reversed,” said Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, lead for equity transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The law also required doctors to report any complications from medication abortions to the state health department, which could result in fines or license revocation.
The older laws that were suspended by Judge Watson included a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, a requirement that doctors provide patients with information about fetal development and alternatives to abortion, and a ban on telemedicine abortions.
Abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, challenged these laws in court, arguing that they were unnecessary, burdensome, and stigmatizing.
“This ruling affirms what Kansans already decided — that every person has a right to make their own personal decisions about abortion without interference from politicians,” said Rachel Sweet, regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
“Kansas voters have spoken loud and clear: they want their elected officials to protect their constitutional right to abortion, not attack it,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
On the other hand, anti-abortion groups and officials expressed disappointment and vowed to continue fighting for the laws.
“We are disappointed in today’s ruling. We will continue to fight for women’s health and safety and the right to be fully informed before making such a critical decision,” said Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who plans to appeal the order.
“We are saddened by this decision that allows the abortion industry to continue profiting from the deaths of innocent unborn children,” said Jeanne Gawdun, senior lobbyist for Kansans for Life.
– Kansas can’t enforce new law on abortion pills or make patients wait 24 hours, judge rules, ABC News, October 30, 2023
– Kansas judge blocks new abortion pill reversal law and old clinic regulations statutes, Yahoo News, October 30, 2023
– Kansas judge says state can’t enforce new abortion pill law, HuffPost, October 30, 2023
– Kansas abortion law blocked by judge who says it violates state constitution, The Guardian, October 29, 2023