Family planning is one of the most effective ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Preventing unplanned pregnancies, in turn, is a key component in reducing the number of abortions in Kansas and across the country.
For that reason, it’s hard to understand why some Kansas legislators want to reduce access to family planning services for low-income men and women.
The current target of this effort is Planned Parenthood, which receives federal Title X funds to help offset the cost of providing various health and family planning services. Although some Planned Parenthood clinics offer abortion services, it is against the law to use Title X funds for such services. Nonetheless, Planned Parenthood has been targeted by members of Congress who want to cut off all Title X funding for the group.
That battle has also spread to Kansas, where members of the Kansas House have passed a budget that includes a proviso saying that, even if it is approved by the federal government, no Title X funding will be allowed to go to any Planned Parenthood clinic in the state. The budget passed by the Kansas Senate doesn’t include that proviso.
Planned Parenthood operates three clinics in Kansas, in Wichita, Hays and Overland Park, but only the clinics in Wichita and Hays receive Title X funds. Title X funds also are allocated to about 80 county or city/county health departments in Kansas, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. All of those clinics provide family planning services along with other life-saving health services such as HIV testing, Pap smears, cancer screenings and breast exams. The Title X funds that go to those clinics are used to offset the cost of caring for patients who are uninsured and would be unable to pay for such services elsewhere. Low-income patients are charged on a sliding scale, based on their income.
The Title X funding issue is particularly important to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Hays, which is the only clinic in Ellis County that provides health and family planning services for low-income people. Of the eight counties adjacent to Ellis County, only four provide any Title X services. In one of those counties, for instance, services are available but only one day per month. Even if the state tries to reallocate the Title X funds to other clinics, those clinics might not be willing or able to ramp up quickly to provide services in areas that now are served only by Planned Parenthood.
Opponents of Title X funding for Planned Parenthood clinics say they don’t want federal funds to be used for abortions. Again, it is against the law to use Title X funds for abortions. The Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays don’t do abortions. Although the group’s clinic in Overland Park does offer abortion services, it does not receive Title X funds. As a further safeguard, Planned Parenthood officials say the Overland Park clinic operates with two separate corporations, which are reviewed every year by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to make sure there is no mixing of funds and that no federal money is being used to fund abortions.
Cutting off federal funding from family planning clinics operated by Planned Parenthood or anyone else in Kansas will have no impact on the funding of abortions in the state. Unfortunately, it could have a devastating impact on thousands of low-income women and families who depend on federally subsidized programs for Pap tests, breast exams, birth control and other basic health services.
Why would Kansas legislators want to risk the health of Kansas women by denying funding to clinics that provide the very family planning services that would reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions? Kansas abortion opponents apparently are trying to make a point but their wrath seems misplaced.