By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life
As reported here late last Friday, Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid Missouri dropped the last of a three-part legal challenge to informed consent provisions of the 2013 Pro-life Protections Act. The Kansas Attorney General’s office issued a short statement today confirming the lawsuit had been dismissed.
It should be noted that PPKMM opted out just three days before a hearing in the court of Judge Kathryn Vratil.
PPKMM had refused to comply with the weblink law even after all other Kansas abortion clinics had complied and after a separate challenge from the Hodes & Nauser abortion clinic collapsed in state district court this spring.
This is the fourth win for the legal team under Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt in defending sound pro-life laws promoted by Kansans for Life.
Moving forward, knowing how and why PPKMM made this 11th hour decision is important to know
After the news cycle was mostly finished on Friday, the Associated Press updated an earlier story to include that Elise Higgins, PPKMM spokeswoman, had said, “We voluntarily dismissed the case, and there was no settlement.” In addition Laura McQuade, PPKMM president & CEO, stated, “We made the decision to focus our resources on expanding access to care for our patients in 2015.”
In the business this is called the “late Friday news dump.” It’s the end of the day at the end of the week when news simply doesn’t get the prominence it would have were it published earlier. The famous “refocus our resources” line was an attempt was to try to avoid giving prominent news play to yet another failed abortion challenge to a pro-life law or rule.
The truth was elsewhere: they held the losing legal position and knew it.
Let’s remind ourselves of PPKMM’s typical bluster when they filed suit. Their June 20, 2013, press release huffed and puffed with outrage. The headline read, “Planned Parenthood Challenges Requirement that it Publicly Endorse State’s Anti-Abortion Ideology. ”
Here were their talking points:
· “Overreaching Law Undermines Doctor-Patient Relationship, Threatens Freedom of Speech for All Kansans”
· “Governor [Sam] Brownback’s attempt to again inject politics into the relationship between a woman and her doctor will not stand.”
· “vital state services are being slashed…while $759,000[thus far] in taxpayer money [is spent to] defend anti-abortion bills”
Sounds pretty extreme. But what was the actual law they opposed?
Basically, it was an update to informational materials that Kansas enacted in 1997, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey ruling. It acknowledged the state’s right to provide “objective, nonjudgmental, and scientifically accurate” information to women considering an abortion. PPKMM’s suit was brought on three objections:
1. the section of state pre-abortion materials that reads,” the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being
2. the section of state pre-abortion materials that includes a short paragraph about pain-capability at 22 weeks gestation, and
3. the requirement that a live link to pre-natal sonography (part of the state’s informed consent package) be positioned on the homepage of the clinic website.
The first two objections were quickly dropped within weeks, as they had been part of state materials in use for several years by all Kansas abortion clinics.
PKMM’s resistance to placing a state weblink on their homepage, however, continued until the Friday before the big hearing was scheduled.
So why not battle it out in court? I think they knew they’d lose, and a court win for the state would have serious ramifications for them, i.e., it would propel similar pro-life protective laws in other states.
Planned Parenthood is a business. PPKMM admitted its primary business is abortion. The government has the right to issue consumer protection over businesses. Think of warnings on toys, cigarette packages, airline safety instructions. The list goes on. The required link is commercial regulation, not interference with free speech.
The state of Kansas’ legal brief argued that the required live link was “sensible commercial-disclosure requirements” aimed at “ensuring a decision that is mature and informed.”
Crucially, the state cut through to PPKMM’s loudest distraction— they argued that they ALREADY had the link elsewhere on the website and that (horrors!) non-abortion clients would see the link if it were on the website home page.
In response the state wrote:
“Links…that are planted deeper in the company’s website either will be missed or only will be seen by women once they have committed to going forward with the abortion procedure.
The homepage requirement aims to have the materials available while a woman is considering the question, “What should I do?”—not merely,[at the place on the website dedicated to] “What do I need to bring to my abortion appointment?”
PPKMM lost the fight legal, but just to show they resent the law, they have put the link on the website homepage with this disclaimer, in all caps:
“WE ARE REQUIRED BY THE STATE OF KANSAS TO STATE THE FOLLOWING, WHICH DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT CURRENT MEDICAL OPINION OR THAT OF COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH.(PPKMM)”
I think that such a curious tagline might even provide more incentive for the gal to check out the prenatal ultrasound and other pregnancy information!