Wichita Planned Parenthood has portrayed a new state statute defunding its Kansas chapter as the product of abortion politics — even though none of the federal monies it receives goes to pay for abortions.
As Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri heads into a courtroom today in hope of convincing a federal judge to block the provision’s implementation, his ruling could imminently impact thousands of low-income patients.
Some 5,700 women, men and teenagers depend on its clinics in Wichita and Hays for contraception services, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood offers abortion services in Kansas only at its clinic in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, but also has clinics in Wichita and Hays. Those two clinics are operated at a loss and offer reproductive health care services.
Closure would be necessary
The entity has already said it would be forced to close its Hays clinic unless U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten immediately prohibits the state from stripping it of $330,000 in federal Title X annual funding. Patients would face higher costs, less access to services and longer wait or travel times for appointments, it argued.
Attorneys representing the state of Kansas have countered that the preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood is unnecessary because other public agencies can handle these low-income patients. They noted the state has already contracted with the Sedgwick County Health Department to offer family planning services to low-income individuals and is presently negotiating with another provider in Hays to do the same.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has questioned whether the county health department can expand its staff and facilities fast enough to handle double its present patient load and whether it can match the weekend hours and long-term contraceptive services it offers. It has also argued the situation is even “more dire” in Hays where there is no Title X provider in place.
Those conflicting portrayals come as both sides try to bolster their cases with various constitutional arguments as the first courtroom test of the Kansas statute nears.
The state of Kansas has touted state sovereignty, arguing that the proposed injunction would unconstitutionally replace the state’s discretion with the court’s judgment. It contended such a ruling would effectively “commandeer” one of the state’s agencies, forcing it to cancel past contracts and enter into new ones selected by the court.
At its turn, Planned Parenthood has cited the Supremacy Clause, arguing the Kansas statute unconstitutionally imposes additional conditions of eligibility for a federal program that are not required by federal law. It contended that the federal government may impose terms and conditions on money it distributes to the states and, once the state chooses to voluntarily accept that money, it is bound by the requirements the federal government established for those funds.
Title X funds
Lost at times amid all the courtroom gamesmanship is another litany of numbers that outlines what the federal Title X funds at issue have helped pay for each year at the two clinics: 9,000 birth control visits, 3,000 pap tests, 3,000 breast exams and 18,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases, court documents show.
The federal Title X funding is designed to provide family planning services for poor families, specifically those whose annual incomes fall under $27,075. Planned Parenthood, which for the past 25 years has received Title X money under grants the federal government has awarded the state, said it uses a sliding fee scale with 59 percent of its patients falling in that category.
Its clinic in Wichita offers reproductive health care services to some 4,720 individuals from southeast and south-central Kansas, while the Hays clinic draws about 960 from across western Kansas.