Wichita — A Dodge City clinic asked a judge Friday to order Kansas to release federal family-planning funding it has been withholding under a disputed new state law, saying the clinic’s two employees haven’t been paid since July and it will be forced to close within weeks unless it gets the money.
The Dodge City Family Planning Clinic also asked Wichita federal court Judge J. Thomas Marten for permission to join a Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenging the law. The clinic said the state has been withholding its allotment of the federal funding despite orders the judge issued in August suspending enforcement of the law pending the outcome of the case and telling the state to release Planned Parenthood’s money.
The law, which took effect July 1, requires the state to allocate federal family planning dollars first to public health departments and hospitals, leaving no money for smaller clinics that rely on the funding. The only entities that would be affected are Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Wichita and Hays and the unaffiliated Dodge City clinic. None of the three clinics provides abortion services.
“DCFP has never provided abortion services, but as ‘collateral damage’ under a law designed to defund entities that do provide them, DCFP has lost over 60 percent of its revenues, including the 40 percent of its budget that the Title X funds represented. It now faces imminent shut-down,” the clinic contends in its court filing.
Like Planned Parenthood, the Dodge City clinic contends that states cannot impose additional requirements to qualify for federal funds.
“The Attorney General’s Office is aware of the filing and we intend to oppose it,” Jeff Wagaman, deputy chief of staff, said in an emailed statement.
For 35 years, Dodge City Family Planning has used Title X dollars to provide its mostly low-income patients with reproductive medical services including birth control, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. It received $39,288 in federal family planning dollars last year. Those federal funds were cut off on July 1 after the Kansas statute took effect, and the clinic says its two employees have been working without pay since.
The clinic contends that it will be forced to close down within a few days or weeks if it doesn’t get the money, leaving about 650 patients from a large area of southwestern Kansas without access to reproductive health care services. About a third of its low-income patients receive free medical services and another third qualify for a 50 percent discount.
“I have not received a paycheck since July, and I continue to work for free for one reason: I know how devastating it would be for our patients and our community if DCFP closed. But we cannot keep this up,” clinic director Karla Demuth wrote in an affidavit to the court.
Demuth told the court she has approached the Ford County Health Department and others about applying for Title X funds, but they are not interested.
Most of the clinic’s patients are poor, and many lack the means to seek alternate medical care, Demuth wrote. Those with the means would be forced to travel farther for treatment or medications, wait longer for appointments, and delay testing and procedures.
Last year the clinic provided 700 contraception visits, 450 pap tests and 250 tests for sexually transmitted diseases. It also provided health education services at schools, community groups and local meatpacking plants.
Planned Parenthood’s only clinic that provides abortion services in Kansas is in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, and it does not receive the federal family-planning funding.