By AP Political Writer
updated 5/17/2011 4:27:45 AM ET 2011-05-17T08:27:45

Kansas will require annual, unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, impose new health and safety rules specifically for them and prevent them from using telemedicine systems to dispense pregnancy-terminating drugs under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Sam Brownback.

The new law takes effect July 1. Abortion opponents said the changes will protect patients, but abortion rights supporters fear they will drive one or more of Kansas' three abortion clinics out of business.

Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican who took office in January, has publicly called on the GOP-dominated Legislature to create "a culture of life," and it has responded by passing a raft of measures.

Along with mandating annual inspections, the new law directs the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to write standards for exits, lighting, bathrooms and equipment. KDHE would issue annual licenses, have the power to fine clinics and could go to court to shut them down.

The law comes with new rules for administering abortion-inducing medications, such as RU-486. Only a licensed physician will be allowed to provide the drug, in the presence of the patient. Clinics won't be allowed to dispense such drugs to patients at far-away sites through telemedicine systems.

"In order to make money doing abortions, they have to do a lot of them. Medical regulations slow them down," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life. "Anything we could do to require the clinics to care more about women than about their profit margins is a good thing."

Kansas' three abortion clinics are in the Kansas City metropolitan area. A Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri clinic and the Center for Women's Health are both in Overland Park, and the Aid for Women clinic is in Kansas City, Kan.

The late Dr. George Tiller's clinic in Wichita was among a few in the U.S. known to perform late-term abortions, but it has been closed since he was shot to death in May 2009 by an anti-abortion activist.

Center for Women's Health employees declined comment, but Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the goal of the abortion opponents who pushed the legislation was limiting access to such procedures.

Jeff Pederson, the Aid for Women clinic's administrator, said it will be forced to spend $10,000 immediately on a new exit mandated by the law.

He said a requirement that physicians at a clinic have privileges with a hospital within 30 miles is problematic because anti-abortion groups pressure hospitals into revoking or not granting such privileges.

"It may cause some sort of a lawsuit if it becomes unreasonable," he said of the new law.

So-called telemedicine abortions are an issue because of the increased use of the drug RU-486, which accounted for 26 percent of the abortions in Kansas in 2010. That's about 2,200 abortions, more than double the number in 2005.

A Planned Parenthood affiliate in Iowa uses a telemedicine system to dispense RU-486 through 16 clinics, and legislators there and in Nebraska have attacked the practice. Abortion opponents worry that the Kansas Planned Parenthood affiliate plans a similar program.

"There's some concern about abortions occurring without face-to-face consultations or close supervision by physicians," said Rep. Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat who opposes abortion.

Brownlie said his Planned Parenthood affiliate has no such plans but added the new Kansas law will make using RU-486 more difficult by requiring patients to make several trips to a clinic.

Years-long debate
The new law's enactment ends years of frustration for abortion opponents, who've argued the state was lax in regulating the abortion clinics.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion rights Democrat, vetoed similar regulations in 2003 and 2005.

The health department regulates 158 hospitals and 72 surgical centers, which include the Planned Parenthood clinic.

But dozens of other offices and clinics do surgeries under rules imposed by the State Board of Healing Arts, which regulates physicians.

The board can suspend or revoke a doctor's license over unsafe conditions or practices, but abortion opponents have long accused it of being slow to act.

In 2005, the board forced a physician to close a Kansas City, Kan., abortion clinic, but two years after complaints surfaced.

"We plead guilty to trying to stop access to negligent and just plain bad medicine," Culp said, arguing that abortion providers aren't likely to face malpractice lawsuits because women feel ashamed about their unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion rights supporters said it's hypocritical to target abortion without addressing other office surgeries with higher risks of complications.

"The only effect is to make the services more expensive and more difficult to obtain, or more difficult to provide," Brownlie said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Does anti-abortion billboard go too far?

  1. Closed captioning of: Does anti-abortion billboard go too far?

    >>> an anti-abortion billboard is shocking a lot of people in new york city . it's pretty hard to do in new york, but its creators say that is exactly the point. here it is. shows the image of a young girl with the words, "the most dangerous place for an african-american is in the womb." critics say it's racist, sexist. generally offensive. but the group behind the billboard says the message happens to be true. let's bring in senior pastor stephen grodin, a board member of life always, and with us, journalist and publisher karen hunter . pastor, let me start with you. can you understand why some people say this ad offends communities of color?

    >> i do understand it. it is a provocative message, but it is a message that's sourced in fact. it is not hyperbole. it is a truth that needs to be confronted. it's one that needs to be talked about in our community . i'm sorry?

    >> what are the facts you're trying to get out there?

    >> that there is a kind of depopulation going on in our community as a result of abortion nap we need to stop and talk about what we're doing as a result of this practice in our community . and the affect is such that we are seeing abortions are outstripping, in some cases, in new york in particular, that there are more abortions taking place than live births . we need to stop as a community and talk about it.

    >> karen, saying african-americans represent 13% of the population, but 36% of abortions. there's two questions here i think, really. one is, are you pro-life, are you pro-choice? that's a different area, but do you think this is racist? is it sexist? offensive?

    >> definitely racial. definitely sexist and it's completely offensive. the statistics not withstanding and i can't argue with the pastor. are you really a pastor? we'll take about that later, but i can't argue with him over the numbers. the reality is, chris, what's his point? you know? and who's he servicing? what's he really trying to get out there? i'm completely appalled at someone who would call him a man of the cloth using these tactics. if you really follow jesus i will take you to the woman at the wells the woman to be stoned. jesus did not treat these people that way. he's criminalizing folks making a choice that is not easy. sick and tired of men and using race baiting as a means to get a moechg out there. if we need a discussion, have a sgugs. at least to healing that leads to solutions. this is not what you're doing. you're rowling beam up and for what cause?

    >> pastor, i need to let you answer that. serious questions she's racing here.

    >> first of all, i am a pastor, and second of all, i believe that there's a korves that needs to take place that hasn't taken place in our community . that's been sort of a monolithic, monotone coming from the other time in the planned parenthood industry. pushing abortion because they make money off of it as a personal gain. but there has not been a conversation in our community about this and i think this billboard is an opportunity for us to talk about some horrific facts that are connected with the practice of abortion. that conversation hasn't taken place. i think the line has indeed been crossed when we're seeing that the affective abortion in our community is not only depopulating our community as threatening our future, but it is also having a deleterious impact on the mental health of black women and physiological health of black women.

    >> we're not having that discussion. we're talking about your billboard and more importantly about you. not having the discussion we need have.

    >> excuse me. i'm not sorry. i didn't cut you off. i pray you wouldn't do that to me.

    >> i don't want to interrupt you, pastor, but you brought up planned parenthood . i want to read their statement. then you can respond. they say, these billboards are offensive and disturbing. the creators are using divisive messages around race to restrict access to medical care . their concern is by demonizing these women who use these services, it may, in fact, keep away women who use a whole range of services that are provided by places like planned parenthood . what would you say to that?

    >> i think that they are having a misinformation they're placing out there. we're not trying to demonize women. we're trying to bring to bear in this conversation that the impact of abortion is depopulating our community . that the numbers are going down. we're seeing almost 1,400 black abortions every day when at the end of the day when the sun goes down, 1,452 black babies are being snatched from their mother's womb. we've got to have a conversation about this.

    >> we're going to make choices.

    >> the impact on our community . the choices need to be made with this statistical evidence. and that's what we're saying. we need to have a conversation.

    >> chris, always a man making these claims. always a man who has no personal stake who's never going to be in an abortion clinic making this tough decision.

    >> we've got to leave it there.

    >> a good question. i'm glad you're asking that question.

    >> i didn't ask a question.

    >> you're statement. well, your statement is, it has to be responded. i'm responding, i'm a part of the black community , interested in the life and health of the black community and i have a voice to say something about it.

    >> okay.

    >> the decision to exercise abortion in our community --

    >> we are out of time. appreciate both of you having this very provocative conversation.

    >> i appreciate being a part of this discussion. thank you very much.

    >> karen? and pastor, thank you.


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