Pro-life forces in Kansas are counting a state-court judge’s refusal to block a state law banning telemedicine abortions as a win in a state where abortion has divided the legislature and the state’s Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Wichita abortion clinic that challenged the ban says it will not resume its use of the telemedicine procedure based on the judge’s decision.
Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson rejected a request from Trust Women Foundation for an injunction that would have prevented the state from enforcing a ban on telemedicine abortion that passed in 2018.
Watson’s ruling contradicts another judge’s ruling against the ban earlier this year.
A telemedicine abortion involves the ingestion of two pills meant to terminate a woman’s pregnancy. The first pill is taken at a clinic, and the second pill is taken at home after the woman speaks with a doctor via webcam.
Trust Women had offered telemedicine abortions last fall, but stopped in January amid questions over its legality.
The decision stands amid an ongoing struggle in Kansas over abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature has strong pro-life majorities and the state has tightened restrictions over the past decade. Kansas lawmakers had tried unsuccessfully to enforce two previous laws aimed at banning telemedicine abortions since 2011, prior to the 2018 law.
In 2015, Kansas legislators also passed a ban on “dismemberment” abortion, a brutal second-trimester procedure, by a wide legislative margin. Then-Gov. Sam Brownback signed that law, but before it went into effect it was challenged, resulting in the state Supreme Court striking it down last spring, citing a “fundamental right” to abortion access in the state constitution.
The judge’s ruling yesterday on the telemedicine abortion ban was the first abortion ruling since the state Supreme Court handed down theirs in April.
Mary Kay Culp, director of Kansans for Life, celebrated Watson’s ruling, saying, “It’s truly justice. We’ll see what it means in the long run. But for now, and especially coming from a woman, it’s a great decision.”
One state Republican legislator has noted the irony of the divide over abortion in Kansas, where the Capitol building includes art depicting key events in the fight for human rights in the state; notably murals of the 19th-century abolitionist John Brown in the bloody struggle to keep Kansas a free state, and one illustrating the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case that led to federal desegregation of public schools.