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Kobach and Kansas clinics agree to delay enforcement of 'abortion pill reversal' law

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Kansas News Service

The deal means the controversial new law won’t take immediate effect in Kansas.

Kansas will not enforce its new “abortion pill reversal” law, set to take effect July 1, until a court rules on abortion providers’ request for a temporary injunction.

Attorney General Kris Kobach reached the agreement with abortion providers, who are challenging the new law and several older abortion restrictions providers say are harmful and unconstitutional.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Alice Wang, an attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The law would require doctors to give patients medically unsubstantiated information about the supposed reversibility of the abortion pill mifepristone. That violates providers’ right to free speech, Wang said, and interferes with patients’ right to get an abortion — which the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the state constitution protects.

“It, essentially, wedges the state’s ideological, paternalistic messages into the patient-provider relationship,” she said. “The type of medically inaccurate, misleading and irrelevant disclosures that are mandated should have no place in essential health care.”

A representative for Kobach did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s efforts to vigorously fight back against this unprecedented attack on a woman’s right to make an informed decision before undergoing an abortion,” Kansans for Life spokesperson Danielle Underwood said in an email. “No woman should be denied this potentially life-saving information.”

Proponents of the law say that the effects of mifepristone, which works by blocking the essential pregnancy hormone progesterone, can sometimes be reversed after the drug is taken if doctors give a patient large doses of progesterone. They point to a few studies indicating the treatment can work. But mainstream medical groups say those studies are flawed, and point to others showing the treatment can be dangerous.

“This development offers our providers temporary relief from a new law that would force them to lie to patients with dangerous and misleading information,” Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a news release.

The organization filed the lawsuit along with doctors at an independent Overland Park clinic.

The state will continue to enforce other decades-old restrictions at the center of the lawsuit, including state-mandated counseling and a 24-hour waiting period that providers say are increasingly onerous as more people travel to Kansas for abortions from out of state.

Abortion opponents, arguing last year for a ballot measure that would’ve stripped abortion rights from the state constitution, argued existing requirements would be vulnerable if the measure failed.

A notice of the agreement was filed Friday and posted to the case docket Tuesday. A hearing date has been set for August.

Rose Conlon reports on health for KMUW and the Kansas News Service.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Rose Conlon is a reporter based at KMUW in Wichita, but serves as part of the Kansas News Service, a partnership of public radio stations across Kansas. She covers health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.