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Lawsuit over Kansas abortion law may get narrower

Published on -7/30/2013, 8:05 AM

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By JOHN HANNA

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The state of Kansas and Planned Parenthood appear to be moving to narrow a federal lawsuit filed by the organization against parts of a new abortion law that took effect this month, spelling out what information must be provided to women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

The movement was reported in a summary of a conference call held Monday by Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil with attorneys in the case in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. The summary was filed Monday evening.

"The parties have come to an initial agreement regarding two claims related to mandated disclosures to patients," the summary of the hearing said, adding that the parties expect to file a joint request to dismiss the claims as early as Wednesday.

The summary said the parties "believe they have narrowed" Planned Parenthood's lawsuit to a requirement for abortion providers to post links on their websites' home pages to a state health department site on abortion and fetal development. The provision requires providers to declare that the state's information is objective and accurate, which they dispute.

Vratil set deadlines for further filings in the case running through Sept. 16.

The lawsuit also had challenged the law's requirements that, before abortions are performed, patients receive information suggesting a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week of pregnancy and information that abortion ends the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being."

Planned Parenthood performs abortions at its clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, and, like other providers, it objected to the requirement about fetal pain because the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there's no evidence for such assertions. Planned Parenthood said in its lawsuit that the statement about abortion terminating the life of a separate human being represents a "philosophical and/or religious belief."

The summary of Monday's conference call didn't say why the challenges to those provisions would be dropped. Elise Higgins, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, and Sarah Warner, a Lawrence attorney representing the state, declined to comment.

The summary said the state "has tentatively agreed not to enforce the challenged portions of the statute" while the lawsuit is pending.

However, the website link requirement already had been blocked by a state court judge in a separate lawsuit filed in Shawnee County by Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who perform abortions at their health center, also in Overland Park.

Hodes and Nauser are challenging the entire law, which was enacted by Kansas legislators this year. It also bans sex-selection abortions, blocks tax breaks for providers, prohibits providers from furnishing materials or instructors for public schools' classes and declares as a general policy that life begins "at fertilization" -- provisions Planned Parenthood didn't challenge in its federal lawsuit.

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Online:

Text of the new Kansas law: http://bit.ly/13mjcIA

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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