Federal Judge Blocks Kansas Law De-Funding Planned Parenthood

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 1, 2011   |   12:31PM   |   Topeka, KS

A federal judge has blocked a new law the Kansas state legislature approved that revokes taxpayer funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten issued his ruling today in a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri argued that it would suffer irreparable harm if the law was allowed to stand and that it would be forced to close one or more of its facilities because Kansas would direct hundreds of thousands of taxpayer funds to non-abortion medical clinics that provide the same services without also destroying the lives of women and unborn children in abortions.

Judge Marten ordered the state to immediately resume funding Planned Parenthood with tax dollars. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has already shifted $204,000 in taxpayer funding previously meant for the abortion business to the Sedgwick County health department to expand its family planning services without doing abortions. The funds were sent to the health department three days after Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit over a law pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback signed to revoke its taxpayer funding.

The state also indicates a non-abortion health clinic in Ellis County has agreed to accept some of the $331,000 in federal funds the state doles out for family planning that Planned Parenthood normally receives.

Kathy Ostrowski, the legislative director for Kansans for Life, responded to the decision in response to a request from LifeNews.

“We are not surprised that Judge Marten is being overcautious as this is the first hearing on a states’ right to assert control over Title X money with preference to supporting full service public health clinics. This restraining order would stall the finalization of Kansas contracts with health outlets that can provide reproductive services reimbursed under the federal Title X program,” Ostrowski explained. “This case is without clear precedent and under a national microscope with a press campaign portraying women’s health in jeopardy without the involvement of abortion giant Planned Parenthood.  Judges do not operate in a media vacuum and are likely aware the Obama administration came out hard against Indiana in a similar assertion of state control over tax-funded health care.”

“The state has made a good case for its right to preferentially support health care outlets that best serve the entire local community. Kansas has approximately 80 public health clinics as well as other full service health outlets that can well service the health needs of women,” the pro-life advocate added. “However, we are hopeful that the merits of the state’s case will be upheld.”

Today’s decision for the injunction is just the beginning of the legal battle between Planned Parenthood and Kansas. The state of Kansas responded to the lawsuit by arguing that the 10th Amendment allows it to determine tax funding. Planned Parenthood in Kansas has received federal funding via the family planning program the state administrators for 25 years.

“The proposed injunction would commandeer one of the State’s agencies, forcing the State to cancel past contracts and enter into new ones selected by the Court,” the state argued. “The proposed injunction would violate the State’s sovereignty and unconstitutionally replace the State’s discretion with the Court’s judgment.”

The state’s legal filing had state attorneys arguing that if a court overturned the law and forces the state to send taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood, it would undermine Kansas’ state sovereignty. The 55-page document made little mention of abortion, AP indicates, and says the court should not try to determine why the legislature cut funding — only that it has the right to do so.

Kansas also maintains the decision is in line with the purpose of the Title X federal family planning fund and says the abortion business can apply for the funds directly from the federal government as it has in other states, but added that Planned Parenthood was not “entitled” to taxpayer funding from Kansas.

Meanwhile, the papers the state filed with the federal court where Planned Parenthood sued make it clear that Planned Parenthood has not given a sufficient reason for why it deserves the funding. They say Planned Parenthood “has made no showing, nor could it, that family planning services will not be provided.”

The abortion business claims women will have a harder time accessing family planning even though the same services will be provided by an agency that doesn’t destroy unborn children in abortions.

“The effect of this provision — and indeed, its purpose — is to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in the Title X program because it performs or is affiliated with the provision of abortion services,” Planned Parenthood said in its own legal documents.

The law shifts funding away from the Planned Parenthood abortion business and stops abortion funding in health insurance programs. The legislation follows a new law in Indiana that made the state the first to yank millions from Planned Parenthood by cutting off its revenue stream from Medicaid. The Kansas Senate passed the measure on a 28-10 vote and the state House followed suit with an 86-30 vote.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas that alleges the budget provision violates the pro-abortion group’s free speech and due process rights. The lawsuit names Brownback and Robert Moser, his secretary of health and environment, as defendants.

The budget provisions say the state’s portion of the federal family planning taxpayer funds must go first to public health agencies — a similar approach to de-funding Planned Parenthood that Tennessee is using but one that differs from the Indiana approach of cutting all funding under Medicaid to Planned Parenthood directly. A federal judge  agreed to Planned Parenthood Indiana’s request to stop the law there while the lawsuit moves forward.

“Unfortunately, Governor Brownback and his allies in the legislature put the health of thousands of their constituents at risk by eliminating funding for a trusted community health care provider,” said Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood abortion business affiliate’s president and chief executive officer, according to AP. “Women in Kansas need better access to affordable, high quality health care, not politically-motivated barriers.”

Mary Kay Culp, the director of Kansans for Life, responded, telling LifeNews: “Planned Parenthood is doing everything it can to divert attention away from the fact that the criminal charges against them are going back to court here in July, after being stalled for two years by the actions of former Kansas Attorney General, Steve Six, who is now a controversial nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

“If found guilty of the felonies they are charged with, they will lose much more than Kansas Title X money,” Culp said. “It is just plain bad practice to give tax dollars to prevent pregnancies to an organization that makes more money when they fail to do so.”

Kansas gets about $2.9 million in Title X funds for family planning services and, although the money can’t pay for abortions, pro-life advocates have opposed sending it to the abortion business because it is fungible.

Olathe state Rep. Lance Kinzer told the Kansas City Star, the provision cutting Planned Parenthood funding “is consistent with the general will of the people in Kansas and it sends an important message with respect to where the vast majority of Kansas are with respect to any tax dollars spent by Planned Parenthood. I think if we can provide those Title X services through an entity like county health departments that everybody has confidence in and aren’t providing abortions then there is really no downside to providing those services in that fashion.”

Kathy Ostrowski of Kansans for Life described to LifeNews how the budget provision works.

“The Kansas budget directs that family planning services financed in any way under “Title X” federal rules must be contracted primarily with public health clinics and secondarily with qualified non-public hospitals or health centers that provide comprehensive health care–primary and preventative,” she said. “In plain language, Kansas wants to support the local health clinics that see patients of all ages and provide a wide range of services including immunizations, screenings, physicals, and referrals.  These health clinics are easily accessible, important to a community and serve the poor. By definition of their limited practices, Planned Parenthood fails in this mission.”

In other states, Indiana approved a law de-funding Planned Parenthood, and New Hampshire Planned Parenthood centers may close after the state revoked a $1.8 million grant. Montana Planned Parenthood is also grappling with funding cuts and one county in Tennessee de-funded Planned Parenthood.

North Carolina may see the closing of a Planned Parenthood center following de-funding and Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin is making cuts after the abortion business lost $1 million in taxpayer funding there. Ohio lawmakers also filed a new bill to shift funding from Planned Parenthood to health departments. Planned Parenthood could lose as much as $64 million in Texas.