Attorney General Derek Schmidt moved to appeal Friday a district court judge's ruling on telemedicine abortions that intertwined three state laws enacted years apart and a pair of lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs.

The Republican attorney general took aim at Shawnee County District Court Judge Franklin Theis' decision to block implementation of a 2018 statute intended to prevent physicians from remotely prescribing by video conference the pills required by women to end pregnancies.

In that same Dec. 31 decision, the judge said an injunction issued in 2011 in an earlier lawsuit also prohibited enforcement of a 2015 state law designed to inhibit telemedicine abortions in Kansas. The judge said he was unmoved by work of the 2018 Legislature, and referred to the new version as an "air ball."

Schmidt appealed the judge's response to the 2018 statute and filed a motion to dissolve the injunction tied to the ongoing 2011 lawsuit. In documents filed by the attorney general, he said the state "does not believe, and has never agreed, that the 2011 injunction applies to the 2015 statute."

"In our view," Schmidt said, "the 2015 statute that passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan majorities has never had its proper day in court, yet the court has now concluded that statute is enjoined from operation. We are perplexed how the court reached this conclusion in a case challenging the 2018 law."

The attorney general said unusual circumstances led to a plea for the Kansas Court of Appeals or the district court, or both, to sort through the legal quagmire.

In 2017, about 4,000 medication abortions were reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  

The Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Trust Women Wichita, which operates a clinic that performs abortions and provides other health care services, filed the lawsuit contesting the 2018 telemedicine ban. The clinic began offering clients telemedicine abortions in October.

In the lawsuit, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued the Kansas ban on telemedicine abortions was contrary to the Kansas Constitution.

Bills restricting access to abortion adopted by the GOP-led Legislature and signed by Republican governors had the blessing of Kansas for Life, which expressed frustration with Theis' rulings on telemedicine abortions.


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