By Kathy Ostrowski,legislative director, Kansans for Life
Monday’s national abortion story was the periodic report/complaint about the high legal expenses the state of Kansas has incurred in defending the constitutionality of four pro-life laws. Under the title, “Kansas Abortion Lawsuits Cost $913K,” AP’s John Hanna writes, “Kansas has paid more than $913,000 to two private law firms that are helping the state defend anti-abortion laws enacted since conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office, and such expenses appear likely to grow.”
The reality is that after the U.S. Supreme Court Roe decision legalized abortion, every state law trying to regulate abortion– no matter how carefully crafted– is subject to court challenges. Of our seven recent pro-life laws, four have been sued. We expect to prevail, but court action moves slowly, sometimes at a snail’s pace.
No matter how lengthy or patently ludicrous, the legal arguments made by our opponents must be answered.
The first recent Kansas pro-life law that went to court was our 2011 law ending coverage for elective abortion as part of standard private health insurance. This was a law that had already been on the books in other states for decades, yet the ACLU and Kansas N.O.W. insisted on filing a challenge. WE WON, but with a legal defense cost of $149,000.
Defense expenses Kansas has paid to two outside law firms for three other ongoing pro-life cases include:
- $126,000 for two challenges to the 2013 Pro-Life Protections Act;
- $386,000 for the Title X budget case with an initial ruling favoring Planned Parenthood, and now under appeal;
- $252,000 for defense of the 2011 law establishing minimum abortion clinic safety and sanitary regulations, including a ban on webcam abortions.
Kansas’ 2013 comprehensive Pro-Life Protections Act is in the initial stages of two suits, one brought in federal court by Planned Parenthood and the other in state court by the Center for Women’s Health. Both clinics have so far only gained a temporary block on two minuscule provisions, instead of stopping the entire law. Our state defense attorneys have had to rebut a multitude of claims, including:
- misrepresentations about how the law was passed,
- ridiculous assertions about abortion–related topics,
- opposition to a states’ rights position the U.S. Supreme Court approved 25 years ago, and
- complaints about informed consent provisions that clinics have already complied with for years!
The Title X case should have been the national abortion story …how Planned Parenthood is propping up two of its financially failing clinics with approximately $400,000 in tax money.
Explanation? Planned Parenthood sued the 2011 Kansas budget provision that requires Title X federal family planning money go to full service health facilities that best serve the indigent. District court Judge Thomas Marten ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, and ordered funding of Title X money for their “feeder” clinics in Hays and Wichita that were losing nearly one quarter of a million dollars annually.
And while Kansas has waited for over a year for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling, we are compelled to keep sending non-recoverable money to Planned Parenthood while also keeping lawyers busy battling this ruling.
It is a steep price, but the end result is important for Kansas’ state sovereignty as well as for other states with similar laws. The alternative is to allow pro-abortionists to win by default, even when they do not have a legal leg to stand on!
Then there’s the lawsuit fighting our 2011 clinic regulation bill which, outside the webcam ban, largely imitates the South Carolina version that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand twenty years ago. The case is creeping along in state court.
That fact that our pro-life Attorney General, Derek Schmidt, pays for the assistance of two private law firms does not “offend good financial stewardship” as complained by Planned Parenthood’s CEO, Peter Brownlie. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life observes that, for our opponents to complain about the cost expended on lawsuits they filed, is ridiculous!
It is appreciated that our AG sought highly qualified defense firms. State AG offices aren’t generally populated by attorneys with expertise in litigating abortion-related cases and–as our readers know—the rules for abortion seem to be different than for every other field.
States that pass pro-life laws only to have their AG undermine the defense of such laws are truly in a bind. Thankfully, Kansas is not now in that spot, as we were when former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ hand-picked, pro-abortion Attorney General Steve Six.
When it comes to passing life-protective laws, logic and public support cannot protect them from costly litigation, but the price is worth paying.