Kansas clinics still don’t know whether it will be legal for them to offer telemedicine abortions in January even though a state-court judge derided an upcoming ban as an “air ball” that can’t stop doctors from providing pregnancy-ending pills to patients they don’t see in person.
An abortion-rights group seeking an order to block the ban found its request enmeshed in larger legal battles over abortion. Attorneys for the state raised the question of whether other state laws might block telemedicine abortions, and District Judge Franklin Theis held off on issuing an order Friday.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of Trust Women of Wichita, which operates a clinic there that performs abortions. Since October, some patients seeking abortion pills have consulted with offsite doctors through teleconferencing, and the clinic hopes to start providing abortion pills to women in rural areas without having them go to Wichita.
The center argues that the new law violates the state constitution by placing an undue burden on women seeking abortions and by singling out abortion for special treatment as part of broader policies otherwise meant to encourage telemedicine.
“The use of telemedicine right now for medication abortions is extremely important,” said Leah Wiederhorn, an attorney for the center. “It’s a way for women to access this type of health care during a time when there are a lot of hostile laws that are meant to shut down clinics across the country.”