Kansas Defends Planned Parenthood De-Funding Law in Court

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 5, 2011   |   1:00PM   |   Topeka, KS

The state of Kansas filed a 144-page legal document yesterday defending a new state law that prevents state taxpayer dollars from financing the Planned Parenthood abortion business via family planning programs.

Kansas is appealing the latest ruling from a federal judge forcing the state to send taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood. The state has announced it would comply with the ruling while it appeals it.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled 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. The judge ordered the state to send taxpayer funds to the abortion business following complaints from it that it lost state public funding.

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 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.

Now, the new legal papers the state filed, according to AP, argue that the ruling “emasculates” the state’s autonomy and sovereignty rights and the state asks the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. Kansas officials also said Marten’s ruling is wrong that the state is discriminating against agencies that do abortions, saying it contracts with 55 agencies for family planning services and all of them are public health agencies except two, including Planned Parenthood.

AP indicates the state also argues Mareten failed to weigh the proper legal factors that should be considered before issuing an injunction against a law, adding that forcing the state to fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business violates its rights under the 11th Amendment.

The legal papers also argue that, under the Title X portion of the federal budget that sends taxpayer dollars to states for family planning, states are authorized to make their own decisions about the eventual recipients of those funds to maximize the usage of them.

“Kansas is no different than many states: seeking to do more with less,” the state wrote. “The long-held and common-sense approach the State has charted is to provide funding first to its public facilities that provide a wide array of medical services to low-income citizens.”

AP indicates the state also argued against Planned Parenthood’s claim that revoking its funding violates its First Amendment rights, saying the court is relying on a few lawmakers making that claim over the will of the full state legislature, which approved the law.

In his ruling, Marten wrote: “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. 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.

Responding to the ruling, Kansans for Life legislative director Kathy Ostrowski said, “It is mind-boggling that this judge thinks he has the authority to give taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood with no legal basis.”

“He continues to pretend this is a free speech case in which Planned Parenthood was denied participation as punishment for their abortion involvement.  However, the Kansas budget provision being sued, that prioritizes full service public clinics, also resulted in a lack of a Title X contract for another ‘family-planning-only’ business unrelated to Planned Parenthood or abortion,” she continued.

“Marten ignores both the fundamental contractual issue and the state’s rock-solid objections,” Ostrowski explains.

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.

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.