Topeka — Kansas has given a local health department some of the family planning funds that a Planned Parenthood chapter has sued in federal court to keep, state attorneys disclosed Tuesday in a court filing.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment gave $204,000 to Sedgwick County to expand its family planning services, state attorneys said. The department increased the county’s grant Thursday, only three days after Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed its lawsuit.
The state’s attorneys also said in their filing that an unidentified clinic in Ellis County also has agreed to accept some of the money that would have gone to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is challenging a provision of the current state budget that prevents the state from forwarding any federal money to it. Abortion opponents have sought for years to divert family planning funds from Planned Parenthood because its clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park terminates pregnancies, though none of the federal money can be used to pay for abortion services.
“I am surprised, in particular, that they did that after we filed our lawsuit,” said Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter’s president and chief executive. “It raises questions about whether the state is acting in good faith.”
Health department spokeswoman Miranda Myrick said the agency is following a policy set by state lawmakers and began moving to implement it as soon as the budget cleared the Legislature in May.
“KDHE reached out to providers to serve Kansans using the priorities defined by statute,” she said.
The state’s lawyers said those developments show that patients will not go without family planning services because of the budget provision, as Planned Parenthood had suggested. In fact, the state’s attorneys said, Planned Parenthood “has made no showing, nor could it, that family planning services will not be provided.”
In a response filed with the court only hours later, Planned Parenthood attorneys said the other providers will need time to expand their family planning services. Planned Parenthood also argued that the state’s move deprived it of its rights to due legal process and free speech, suggesting legislators were punishing the group for advocating abortion rights.
“The constitutional violations at issue are taking place now, which create irreparable harm, and merit an immediate injunction,” the Planned Parenthood attorneys said in their filing.
Planned Parenthood has clinics in Wichita and Hays, the largest cities in Sedgwick and Ellis counties, and it expects to lose about $331,000 in federal funds that flow through the state. The budget provision says such money must go first to local health departments, then to other hospitals and clinics.
The provision doesn’t mention Planned Parenthood by name. But lawmakers who backed the measure said repeatedly they were trying to “defund” the group because it also provides abortion services and they didn’t want tax dollars to support those services, even indirectly.
The state’s attorneys also asked that a Friday hearing on Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit be delayed for a month. The attorneys note that the state hired their Wichita law firm only Thursday and said they need more time to prepare.
And, they said, there’s no need to have a hearing before then because, even if U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten rules that Planned Parenthood should receive the money, the health department can cancel its decisions to send the money elsewhere with 30 days’ notice.
Planned Parenthood’s attorneys responded: “Once these facilities have expanded their services, it will be expensive and difficult, if not impossible, for them to ramp back down to pre-July 1 levels in 30 days. For instance, if facilities are expanded or new employees hired, it may not be possible to un-do these actions.”