Judge Orders Kansas to Send Tax Money to Planned Parenthood

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 30, 2011   |   6:33PM   |   Topeka, KS

In the latest skirmish in the battle between Kansas and Planned Parenthood, a judge has ordered the state to send taxpayer funds to the abortion business following complaints from it that it lost state public funding.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled today that Kansas must fund the abortion business even though it did not cancel an contracts with the agency that were in effect at the time a new state provision went into place denying taxpayer funding via the family planning program to any agencies that do abortions.

Marten, in his ruling, also rejected the state’s request to only give Planned Parenthood taxpayer money on a monthly basis while its lawsuit moves forward rather than in a quarterly lump sum covering three months. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Western Missouri had complained earlier today that it would have to close its Hays, Kansas abortion referral clinic by Friday if the judge did not order the stand to fork over tax money to fund it.

“The court finds no injury to the defendants in maintaining the prior payment schedule, as they will be providing funding in a manner consistent with prior practice between the parties, and to an organization which has consistently provided satisfactory family planning services,” he wrote. “Defendants shall resume funding in accordance with this order immediately and shall continue such funding until further order of this court or the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit modifying this order.”

Earlier, Marten issued an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law after 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.

The Kansas Attorney General’s office filed an appellate brief in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to halt the decision placing a temporary hold on enforcing the new law de-funding Planned Parenthood. State officials say it is not complying because there are no taxpayer funds to restore. The state entered into new contracts with other agencies after the law was passed — there was no situation where a contract with Planned Parenthood was voided and a judge’s order would require the state to restore it.

In its legal papers in the case, Planned Parenthood says the taxpayer funding to the abortion business must be restored by Friday or it will have to close the Hays center, which doesn’t do abortions but refers women for them. Planned Parenthood also said it would have to start charging customers more at its Wichita center unless the funding is restored.

State officials are also bickering with Kansas over how much to pay the abortion business while the case moves forward — the state wants to only give the abortion business a monthly check as the lawsuit continues while Planned Parenthood wants a quarterly payment.

Planned Parenthood CEO Peter Brownlie told The Associated Press that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri has not received any taxpayer funds from the state since the judge’s order and he says the abortion business is looking into legal options to force the state to comply.

“We and our attorneys are talking about what our next steps are,” Brownlie said. “The state’s refusal to comply with the court’s order is rather remarkable.”

But Kansans for Life legislative director Kathy Ostrowski commented on the Planned Parenthood request for funds while the lawsuit moves forward.

“The clock is ticking in this high-stakes matter because the federal HHS agency ordinarily requires all Title X family planning contracts to be finalized by Aug. 31,” she said. “Kansas’ legal team have objected that Marten’s order to prevent “irreparable harm” to Planned Parenthood is unfounded since the money PP seeks -$330,000– would be about 5.5% of Plaintiff’s total revenue.  Planned Parenthood of Kansas Mid-Missouri had revenues of $5.6 million in 2009 (last reported year) with $1.9 million in donations.  Planned Parenthood told the court that both the Hays and Wichita outlets were already operating at a $220,000 annual loss — even with last year’s Title X funding.”

She said Planned Parenthood did not have a state contract with Kansas “to be restored by Marten, and a judge hasn’t the authority to create contracts between the state and private business.”

In fact,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.

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.”

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 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.

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.”

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.