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Kansas Abortion Clinics Threatened By New State Law

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A new law in Kansas that imposes strict requirements for abortion clinic facilities has made it nearly impossible for the state's three abortion providers to stay in operation. One clinic has already been denied a license, and the other two have not been able to meet the state's standards as of Tuesday, putting Kansas at risk of becoming the first state where a woman cannot get an abortion.

According to some of the new clinic requirements, an abortion facility in Kansas must be set to a temperature between 68 and 73 degrees, have a janitor's closet of at least 50 square feet and an operating room of 150 square feet, feature separate dressing rooms for staff and patients and have 13 different types of drugs on hand. A patient is now required to stay in the recovery room, which must have a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees, for at least two hours after her procedure, even if the procedure requires no anesthesia.

The requirements are so numerous and specific that it's almost impossible for Kansas' three abortion clinics to get up to speed by July 1, the licensing deadline. The Republican lawmakers who pushed for the bill insist that they aren't aiming to shut down all of Kansas' abortion clinics -- but that they are just looking out for women's health and safety.

"I don't believe semi-clean to be okay. I don't believe it to be okay for poor women. I don't believe it to be okay for rich women," said Republican State Sen. Garrett Love, who supported the measure.

The state's three abortion providers argue that the rules are unnecessary, burdensome and clearly designed to prohibit abortion in Kansas, since hospitals and surgical centers aren't even required to meet temperature and closet-size requirements.

"These rules go way beyond what's necessary for a safe, frequently-performed procedure," Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told HuffPost. "There are other kinds of surgeries done without these regulations that carry a much higher risk. This is a response to a problem that doesn't exist."

Planned Parenthood has only one clinic in Kansas that provides abortions. Brownlie said the clinic would be in full compliance with regulations by Friday, the licensing deadline, but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said on Tuesday that the facility still hadn't been approved.

A second abortion clinic in Wyandotte County was told based on a paper application that it would not be approved for a license, and two physicians from a third Kansas clinic, the Center for Women's Health in Overland Park, are challenging the new law in court on grounds the clinic didn't get a fair chance.

“KDHE implemented the licensing provisions of the act in ways that made it impossible for existing medical practices to obtain a license by the effective date,” the lawsuit charges.

It is already difficult for a woman to get an abortion in Kansas. Lawmakers passed a 20-week ban earlier this year, private health insurers are banned from covering abortions in Kansas and minors are now required to get written consent from their parents in order to have the procedure.

If the three Kansas clinics cannot meet the state's requirements by Friday, a woman will have to travel to Columbia, Mo., for a first-trimester abortion. She'd have to go all the way to St. Louis for a procedure in her second trimester.

"This is what happens when politicians attempt to practice medicine," Brownlie said.

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