Kansas Judge Issues Last-Minute Block of 'Unprecedented' Abortion Ban

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Kansas Judge Issues Last-Minute Block of 'Unprecedented' Abortion Ban

Judge will block state law from implementing first-in-the-nation ban on common abortion procedure while hearing lawsuit

A Kansas judge has temporarily blocked a law that would have banned a common abortion procedure. (Photo: Center for Reproductive Rights)

A Kansas district judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a state law from taking effect that would ban a common abortion procedure—a measure opponents have called "an unprecedented attack on women's health."

Judge Larry Hendricks of the Shawnee County district court granted the injunction against Senate Bill 95 (SB95) while he considers a lawsuit filed by a medical clinic in the city of Overland Park and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The lawsuit argues that banning the procedure—known as the "dilation and evacuation" (D&E) abortion—could force women to undergo riskier procedures or forgo abortions altogether.

SB95, which passed in April, "is an affront to both patients' right to be free from unnecessary medical procedures and physicians' ability to act in what they believe is the best interests of their patients," the lawsuit states.

The law, which would have been the first in the nation to ban the D&E and does not make exceptions for survivors of rape and incest, was set to go into effect next Wednesday, July 1.

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Hendricks said a section of the Kansas Constitution provides the right to terminate a pregnancy.

D&E is used in 95 percent of second-trimester abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Kansas health department says that it was used in about 9 percent of all abortions statewide last year.

The lawsuit was filed on June 1 by Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser, two ob-gyns at the Center for Women's Health clinic, against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe. Lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights are representing the doctors.

SB95 prohibits Hodes and Nauser, who are father and daughter, "from providing a safe, effective, and medically-proven method of abortion to many of their patients seeking care in the second trimester of pregnancy," explained a press release announcing the lawsuit earlier this month.

"This is yet another in a relentless barrage of attacks to block women's access to constitutionally protected abortion services," Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup said at the time.

"The ultimate goal of those behind this law is to criminalize abortion services, one by one, until women are left with absolutely no safe or legal options," she continued. "It’s time to stop interfering with women’s personal decisions and substituting the agendas of politicians for the expertise of health care professionals."

Northup said her group was "confident this court will see the harm this law would inflict upon Kansas women and block it before even one woman is denied the care that she and her doctor have decided is best."

And it appears the court has—at least for now.

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