The Kansas House and Senate ended this year’s session with a new bill that prohibits abortions by telemedicine. (Telemedecine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by telecommunications technology.) Governor Colyer signed the bill, and it is now the law in Kansas.
The telemedicine bill has been in the works for several years, because it does the important work of establishing a definition of telemedicine, establishing payment parameters for providers, and institutes reimbursement rules for insurance companies. It took years of negotiation before legislators agreed on acceptable terms for this bill. Telemedicine has the potential to improve healthcare access to rural Kansans, who sometimes have to travel for an hour or more to see a doctor or visit a hospital.
However, during this session, Kansas lawmakers aligned with Kansans for Life inserted a gratuitous prohibition on abortion in the telemedicine bill.
Kansas law already requires all medication abortions to be performed in the presence of a physician, so inserting the abortion prohibition in the telemedicine bill only serves to make a political statement and serves no practical purpose.
Perhaps most importantly, this law could possibly impact public health for all of Kansas, because the abortion provision includes a “non-severability” clause. This clause requires the whole telemedicine law be nullified if a judge ever invalidates the provision that prohibits abortion.
There used to be a similar abortion prohibition in Idaho’s telemedicine law, but the provision was removed from the broader telemedicine law last year after a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood. A proposed anti-abortion provision never made it into Utah’s telemedicine bill, because Utah’s legislature stated they wanted to ensure the bill’s focus remained on improving health outcomes.
In Kansas, the severability clause means that all of the provider protections and consumer protections in the bill, which had been negotiated by provider and patient advocate groups for months, would be wiped out if the abortion prohibition is successfully challenged. Kansas would essentially have to start from square one to re-institute telemedicine legislation.