Kan. abortion clinic denied license, may close

TOPEKA, Kan. - A Kansas City area clinic has been denied a state license that would allow it to continue performing abortions and will probably close, the clinic's attorney said Friday.

Kansas enacted a law earlier this year establishing a special licensing process for abortion providers, and the state's three abortion clinics must either get licenses or stop offering the procedure on July 1.

An attorney for the Aid for Women clinic said it received a notice that its application for a license had been denied by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment without an inspection, and she was looking at its legal options. But Cheryl Pilate also said the clinic would have to close, at least temporarily.

The clinic received its notice on the same day the leader of a Planned Parenthood chapter said his clinic should receive a license based on a two-day review in which inspectors found it will comply with all new regulations. An inspection of the third clinic is scheduled for Wednesday. All three clinics are in the Kansas City area.

Health department spokeswoman Miranda Myrick declined to comment because the licensing process for all three abortion providers is ongoing.

Supporters of the licensing law say the new rules drafted by the state health department as part of the process will protect patients from substandard and even dangerous care. But abortion rights advocates are suspicious because Republican Gov. Sam Brownback strongly opposes abortion and anti-abortion groups pushed the law.

"We're doomed," said Dr. Herbert Hodes of the Women's Health Center.

Abortions are now offered in Kansas at the Women's Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri's clinic, both in Overland Park, and at Aid for Women in Kansas City, Kan. If the clinics don't receive licenses, Kansas would become the first state in the nation without an abortion clinic.

The health department already regulates hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, which include the Planned Parenthood clinic. The two other abortion providers are among dozens of clinics and offices that fall under rules set by the state Board of Healing Arts, which licenses physicians.

Pilate said the health department told Aid for Women its application was denied because it had disclosed that it would need extensive renovations to meet standards dictating the sizes of rooms, storage space for patients' belongings and the number of bathrooms and janitor's closets.

Also, she said, the clinic reported the physician who performs abortions is in the process of seeking privileges at an area hospital. The new law requires that a physician have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The department's notice said that for those reasons, "an on-site inspection will not be necessary and will not be scheduled."

Pilate called the licensing process "rushed and absurdly unrealistic." The law was signed May 16, and the clinics received the latest draft of the department's regulations earlier this week.

"We could not even obtain remodeling plans and a building permit," before July, Pilate said.

Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of the local Planned Parenthood chapter, said he believes its clinic will get a license after its 20-hour inspection.

"The findings of the inspection indicate we will be in full compliance with the abortion facility license regulations when they go into effect on July 1st," Brownlie said. "Thus, I believe we should be granted a license."

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, which pushed for the new law, said the Planned Parenthood clinic would be the most likely one to obtain a license under the new rules because it's already regulated as a surgical center.

"We don't have any reason that they in particular wouldn't, except that they fought us for so long," she said, referring to past legislative debates over imposing specific rules for abortion providers.