Telemedicine makes Kansas an abortion destination
Pro-lifers work to educate mothers on the risks
“Fun for the whole family!” reads an advertisement for the Wyandotte County Fair in the latest visitor’s guide for Kansas City, Kan. The guide promotes local barbecue restaurants, theaters, art galleries, and buildings with Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
Underneath an ad for the local history museum, the guide advertises, “Now Open: Planned Parenthood’s New Health Center,” promising “compassionate, discreet, expert care,” in baby blue print. A QR code refers readers to the website of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
The abortion provider opened the Sunflower State’s newest center in Wyandotte County on June 28, without anticipating the overturning of Roe v. Wade four days earlier. As nearby states increased legal protections for the unborn, Kansas became an abortion destination for women from across the country.
Even with scheduling 25 appointments a day, Planned Parenthood Great Plains told KCUR-FM the Wyandotte location can only see 10-15 percent of patients in person. Local patients can make midweek appointments. But numbers of clients from nearby states, especially Oklahoma and Texas, continue to increase.
In December 2022, Planned Parenthood Great Plains officially launched access to telemedicine abortions after a judge blocked a law protecting infants from such abortions one month earlier.
In August, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected the Value Them Both amendment, a measure that would have clarified the state constitution does not affirm a right to abortion. That rejection paved the way for the judge’s ruling, which now overrides a 2011 Kansas law requiring in-person appointments before a medication abortion.
KCUR-FM also reported that after the ruling, one facility in Wichita increased the number of medication abortions it provides to patients by calling on out-of-state abortionists to prescribe the pills. Previously, it offered fewer abortions due to a lack of local providers.
Jeanne Gawdun, director of government relations for Kansans For Life, was in her kitchen preparing pies the day before Thanksgiving when she heard the judge’s ruling. “It wasn’t shocking or surprising,” she said. “But it was just sad because the reason for having that provision in the law to begin with, was to protect women and their babies.”
In an earlier 2019 court case over Kansas’ medication-in-person requirement, Kansas abortion provider Traci Nauser, M.D., testified that abortion providers are not required to receive special training for dispensing the drug; they only have to know how to dose it.
Nauser said she gives her patients a cup of water to wash down the first pill of mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone, causing the lining of the uterus to break down. Then, Nauser sends them home with the second round of pills to be dissolved under the tongue 48 hours later, which will induce uterine contractions and expel the baby. She added, “I also give them a [candy] sucker so that it can dissolve quicker and not taste as gross.”
Research from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in 2021 showed medication abortion usage rose from 39 percent of all abortions in 2017 to over 54 percent in 2021. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced concerns in 2022 about some providers prescribing mifepristone even before women become pregnant. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called for the FDA to eliminate any restrictions on mifepristone, the government entity believes doing so would make it difficult to report the required information about the abortion such as the date it took place, the length of gestation, the method used, and the possibility of sexual assault or incest.
Studies have shown medication abortion increases a woman’s risk of physical and psychological complications whether the abortion takes place during the first or second trimester.
Without a physician, it is difficult to determine when exactly during gestation the abortion takes place. This makes it likely that the woman will pass more than “clumps of tissue” during her abortion. The World Health Organization says the two-part drug can be taken up to 12 weeks in pregnancy, the stage of fetal development when 90 percent of an adult’s 4,500 body parts can be identified in the baby, its fingerprints are forming, and the bones are hardening. Nauser said her facility picked 7.5 weeks (when the baby is the size of a blueberry) as an “arbitrary gestational age” for performing medication abortions in hopes of making the bleeding and cramping as the uterus empties “less scary, so hopefully patients would tolerate it better.”
Women could mistake symptoms of emergency complications, like infections or ruptured fallopian tubes, for side effects of the pill. According to the University of California San Francisco, 3-5 percent of women who take the abortion pill will need a surgical procedure either because the abortion was incomplete or the bleeding can’t be stopped.
Even with Kansas’ protections for babies decreasing in 2022, Gawdun is determined in 2023 to continue creating resources to help and inform women in their decisions for themselves and their babies. That includes education about alternatives to abortion through websites such as Woman’s Right to Know, ultrasound videos throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy, and more drafts of pro-life legislation.
“To be able to have the opportunity to save their babies … that’s wonderful, wonderful information they are entitled to have … that’s pro-choice,” Gawdun said. “We want them to know that they can continue with their education and have their child, that they can continue their career and have their child. And the state of Kansas is the destination for pregnancy help. Not abortion.”
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