Kansas Judge Strikes ‘Abortion Pill Reversal,’ Bizarre Font Requirements Among Other Anti-Abortion Measures

The odd measures were part of the Women’s Right to Know Act, which the judge called “a thinly veiled effort to stigmatize the procedure."

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Kansas Judge Strikes ‘Abortion Pill Reversal,’ Bizarre Font Requirements Among Other Anti-Abortion Measures
Photo:The Good Brigade (Getty Images)

In an important victory for abortion access in the Midwest, a Kansas judge ruled against a handful of stringent anti-abortion measures—some of which trace back decades under the insidiously named Women’s Right to Know Act while others were passed after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

“The Act appears to be a thinly veiled effort to stigmatize the procedure and instill fear in patients that are contemplating an abortion, such that they make an alternative choice, based upon disproven and unsupportable claims,” Johnson County District Court Judge Krishnan Christopher Jayaram wrote on Monday. As requested in the lawsuit filed by abortion providers in the state, Jayaram issued a temporary injunction on these restrictions until a trial set for 2024.

The measures in question required that—on top of a 24-hour waiting period that’s particularly onerous for the state’s many out-of-state abortion seekers from nearby states that have banned abortion—patients receive a range of inaccurate state-mandated information in order to have an abortion. This includes the medically unfounded statements that abortion creates a “risk of premature birth in future pregnancies” and a “risk of breast cancer.” Doctors would also be required to present abortion-seeking patients no fewer than five times with the medically unfounded claim that a medication abortion that’s underway can be “reversed” through a possibly dangerous chemical regimen.

Other requirements presented uniquely onerous barriers, including that abortion seekers must receive state-mandated abortion misinformation in forms written in specific typeface, font size, and color at least 24 hours before an abortion appointment in order to receive care. Then, upon coming into the clinic, they’re required to wait 30 minutes after meeting the abortion provider to receive abortion care. Jayaram struck down all of these measures.

In his ruling, the judge also recognized the restrictions as a violation of abortion providers’ right to free speech as well as patients’ fundamental right to abortion access.

Ever since the state Supreme Court interpreted the Kansas state constitution’s right to bodily autonomy to include abortion in 2019, the state constitution recognizes the right to abortion. Last August, Kansas voters overwhelmingly voted to uphold this right in a special election over a ballot measure that was written by abortion rights opponents seeking to eliminate this constitutional protection and enact an abortion ban. Kansas was the first state in the nation to vote directly on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe; but while the state maintains a constitutional right to abortion, the state can continue to pass restrictions.

In a statement shared with Jezebel, Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who worked on the case, criticized the “paternalistic restrictions” of the Women’s Right to Know Act. “These restrictions are especially harmful now that Roe was overturned and Kansas clinics are overwhelmed with patients from neighboring states where abortion is banned. Abortion is a human right and Kansans deserve accurate, candid medical information.”

After Roe fell, three of Kansas’ neighboring states—Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri—moved to ban abortion. Bloomberg estimated at the time that Kansas could see a “quadrupling” of abortion patients in post-Roe America. One clinic that’s involved in the lawsuit against the aforementioned restrictions reported that it’s seen a 40% increase in patients since the overturning of Roe, and close to two-thirds of their patients have traveled more than 100 miles to get care. The Trust Women clinic in Kansas told Jezebel last year that the state had “become a majority out-of-state provider” and the clinic received as many as 1,000 calls on some days. The Guardian now reports that Trust Women says it sees between double and triple the patients it saw before Roe fell, and 70% of its patients come from out-of-state.

In a statement shared with Jezebel, Planned Parenthood Great Plains president and CEO Emily Wales emphasized how infringements on abortion access for Kansans impact abortion seekers across the entire region. Wales called the ruling against these measures “a crucial step in achieving what Kansans emphatically supported in August 2022: abortion access without political interference,” adding that “no patient should be denied care because they printed a form in the wrong color.”

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