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Reproductive Rights Group Challenges Telemedicine Abortion Ban In Kansas

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Grace Carr Reporter
  • The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state of Kansas Thursday over a ban on telemedicine abortions.
  • Telemedicine abortions allow women to take abortive drugs with the instruction of a virtual rather than in-person doctor.
  • “Telemedicine allows women to be evaluated and treated sooner and expands access to women in underserved areas,” an attorney for the group said.

A women’s reproductive rights group filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas Thursday, challenging its ban on telemedicine abortions allowing women to forgo an in-person doctor consultation before aborting their unborn babies.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state over its Kansas Telemedicine Act, which includes a provision that bans abortion via telemedicine, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of Trust Women Wichita. The measure also requires that state insurance companies cover a number of telemedicine services that are otherwise covered during in-person visits to the doctor.

“By treating women seeking abortions differently from similarly-situated patients seeking all other forms of medical care delivered via telemedicine, the Act violates the rights of Plaintiff’s patients to equal protection under the law,” reads the lawsuit, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The act was passed in May and is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019, the AP reported.

“Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places,” according to eVisit.

A telemedicine abortion takes place with a nurse or trained technician present. The patient takes an abortion pill in the “virtual presence” of a doctor, and takes a second pill later at home on their own, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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“This ban hurts Kansas women by mandating that they must travel farther and pay more in gas, child care, lost wages and lodging to access necessary medical care,” Trust Women CEO Julie Burkhart said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “Medication abortion is safe whether provided in-person or by telemedicine.” (RELATED: Court Rules Alabama Abortion Clinics Can Sit Next To Schools)

Trust Women “opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care,” according to its Twitter handle.

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, USA – JANUARY 20, 2018: An older white woman in the 2018 Women’s March holds signs saying abortion saves lives and that women are not going back to when it was illegal. Shutterstock/J. Bicking

The measure also requires organizations that provide services covered by the state’s Medicaid program to cover telemedicine speech-language pathology and audiology services, according to the act.

“We’re a pro-life state,” Republican Kansas state Rep. John Whitmer said, according to the Eagle.

Two states adopted measures restricting abortion access at Tuesday’s midterms. West Virginia residents voted to adopt Amendment 1, which adds to the state’s constitution that “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” It also prevents Medicaid funds from being used for abortions, according to CNN.

Asheville, North Carolina, USA – January 20, 2018: A young woman marching in the 2018 Women’s March holds a political, gender related sign saying “Respect My Existence or Expect My Resistance.” Shutterstock/J. Bicking

Alabama voted to adopt statewide Amendment 2affirming that “the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion,” according to Ballotpedia. The amendment also changes the state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”

“Telemedicine has also allowed Trust Women to expand abortion services at the clinic, beyond just two days a week, because doctors do not have to travel to Wichita to provide care for medication abortion and can videoconference with their patients,” Center for Reproductive Rights senior staff attorney Leah Wiederhorn told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email Friday.

“Telemedicine allows women to be evaluated and treated sooner and expands access to women in underserved areas. With only four abortion clinics in the state of [Kansas], this ban would greatly restrict abortion access for Kansas women,” Wiederhorn added.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

This post was corrected to state that the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state over its Kansas Telemedicine Act and to note the act bans telemedicine abortions.

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