On Monday, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis thwarted the Kansas legislature by ruling that a law barring telemedicine abortions has no legal force. The law was set to take effect in January. It would have prevented doctors from providing abortion-inducing pills to women with whom they consult only through remote video conferences.
As John Hanna reports in the Associated Press, Theis objected to lawmakers making abortion inconvenient for women and also for “singling out abortion for special treatment when state policies intend to encourage telemedicine.”
In his discussion of telemedicine, however, Theis overlooked one very fundamental issue. That happens often when judges bypass the legislative give-and-take and make decisions on their own. If Kansas is not yet a full-blown kritarchy, it is trending in that direction.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life (KFL), finds the consequences of that trend “infuriating.” Said Culp, “This judge has a long history of taking laws designed by the Legislature to protect unborn babies and women and turning them into laws that instead protect the abortion industry.”
According to Hanna, Kansans for Life has argued that “telemedicine abortions are dangerous.” This is a paraphrase. Were it a direct quote, Culp would have added “for the woman.” Telemedicine abortions are always dangerous for the child. With the rare exception, they are lethal.
To counter the KFL claim, Hanna cites a study published in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ journal in 2015. The study claims that “less than one-third of 1 percent of medication abortions” resulted in “major complications.” If that study involved telemedicine abortions, Hanna does not so specify. It almost surely does not.
The more fundamental question has to do with the definition of telemedicine. Merriam-Webster defines “medicine” as “a substance or preparation used in treating disease” or “the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease.”
In cases for which a pill is used to terminate a child’s life, there is no disease to be treated, no condition to be cured or alleviated. If the mother did have some complicating health condition, the doctor would have had to do more than communicate with the woman through space.
Yes, Judge, the state law does encourage telemedicine, but an early-stage abortion fits no known definition of medicine, “tele” or otherwise.