Kansas Begins Providing Telemedicine Abortions After the Voters Made Themselves Heard

The state's Planned Parenthood affiliates announced Tuesday it would start providing the service after years of legal setbacks.

Kansas Begins Providing Telemedicine Abortions After the Voters Made Themselves Heard
Dr. Elizabeth Brett Daily enters an exam room consult with a patient about the medical abortion process at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Oct. 12, 2022, in Kansas City, Kan. Photo:Charlie Riedel, File (AP)

A Planned Parenthood affiliate clinic in Wichita, Kansas, started providing medication abortion by telemedicine on Monday, and the national family planning organization said Tuesday that it will eventually offer abortion by telemedicine in its two clinics in Kansas City as well.

The move follows years of legal battles to keep abortion available in Kansas, and it was only made possible by the voters choosing overwhelmingly to keep the right to abortion in the state’s constitution in August. Kansas was the first of six states where voters turned out to support abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood Great Plains CEO and president, eventually wants to see the program expand beyond just her organization’s Kansas affiliates. In an interview with the Associated Press, she described a system that would allow patients from all over Kansas to use local doctors’ offices and clinics to secure abortion pills via telehealth through an appointment with one of Planned Parenthood’s Kansas-licensed physicians. “My vision for telehealth medication abortion is the same as my vision for abortion generally, which is that it would be widely accessible by many providers,” Wales told the AP.

The expansion of abortion access in the Sunflower State followed a state-court judge’s decision to block enforcement of the state’s ban on abortion by telemedicine in late November. The Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Trust Women, a clinic network founded in Kansas, challenged the law in 2019. Trust Women told the AP it hopes to take advantage of the change in telemedicine rule.

The 2011 state law required a doctor to physically be in the room with a patient while dispensing the first abortion pill. It specifically targeted people from rural areas and those unable to travel for their appointments, while also perpetuating stigma against medication abortion. Medication abortion is one of the most safe medications you can take.

Kansas has been a state to watch for those concerned about protecting abortion rights. The state Supreme Court ruled in April 2019 that abortion access is a “fundamental” right under Kansas constitution. In August, an incredible group of pro-abortion organizers defeated a confusingly worded anti-abortion ballot measure that could have opened the door for a total ban in the state.

Further, Kansas has been seen as a haven state for the last two years, as legislatures around the Midwest and South look to ban abortion in as many creative ways as possible. In September 2021, Texas state bill S.B. 8 banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and included a civil lawsuit provision. It basically meant abortions plummeted in Texas. Patients flocked to Oklahoma, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and Kansas.

This status as a safer place for abortion access hasn’t stop Kansas Republicans from preparing for a busy legislative session full of anti-abortion proposals. Until the law changes again, Planned Parenthood Great Plains told the AP they remain confident. “We’re pretty confident that the courts are on our side and that we have a very strong legal leg to stand on,” said general counsel Erin Thompson.

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