ByÂ John Hanna-Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) â€” A normally obscure board inÂ KansasÂ unanimously approved new regulations Thursday forÂ abortionÂ providers, moving the state closer to becoming the first in the nation without a clinic or doctorâ€™s office performing the procedures.
Approval of the rules by the five-memberÂ State Rules and Regulations Board was necessary for theÂ KansasDepartment of Health and Environment to begin enforcing them Friday. ButÂ abortionÂ providers have filed a federal lawsuit and hope to prevent the state from enforcing the regulations and the new licensing law under which they were written. A hearing in that lawsuit is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court inÂ KansasÂ City, Kan.
KansasÂ has threeÂ abortionÂ providers, all in theÂ KansasÂ City area. The law requires each to obtain a special license to continue performingabortions. The regulations tell providers what equipment and drugs they must stock and set space and temperature requirements for procedure and recovery rooms.
Only one provider, aÂ Planned Parenthood ofÂ KansasÂ andÂ Mid-Missouri clinic in theÂ KansasÂ City suburb of Overland Park, had a licensing decision pending Thursday with theÂ health department. One provider has been denied a license; the third hasnâ€™t been inspected and canâ€™t get a license until it is.
â€œI do not think we will get a decision from KDHE until tomorrow,â€ saidPeter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of theÂ Planned Parenthood chapter. â€œWeâ€™ve not been granted a license. We havenâ€™t been denied a license.â€
Supporters say the rules will protect patients from substandard care, but critics say theyâ€™re burdensome by design and really aimed at shutting downÂ abortionÂ services.
Abortion-rights supporters are suspicious of the licensing process becauseÂ Gov. Sam Brownback is an anti-abortion Republican andabortionÂ opponents pushed the law through theÂ GOP-controlled Legislature.
All fiveÂ Rules and Regulation Board members are Republicans likeÂ Mr. Brownback. Its members include two legislators and representatives of the attorney general, secretary of state and secretary of administration. The non-legislators often send subordinates, and theÂ board receives little public attention. But Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor both attended Thursday.
Providers have sued partly because they didnâ€™t see the current version of the regulations until earlier this month â€” less than two weeks before they were supposed to comply with them. TheÂ health department also hasnâ€™t taken public comments.
TheÂ health department used an expedited process to impose the rules for four months until it solicits public comments and considers changes. Department officials contend the fast track is necessary because the law requires the licensing process to be in place by July 1.
State law created theÂ Rules and Regulations Board to review efforts by agencies to impose regulations quickly and before taking public comments. TheÂ health department published a notice Thursday that it will have a public hearing on theÂ abortionÂ clinic rules Sept. 7 in Topeka.
â€œOur goal is always to ensure the highest quality of care,â€ Joseph Kroll, the director of the health department bureau that drafted the regulations. â€œI think their content and the approach is consistent with other regulations that we have in effect.â€
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