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Kansas set to defund Planned Parenthood

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, April 25, 2011, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, April 25, 2011, at 5:26 a.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Abortion politics could take a new twist in Kansas with a budget plan that would make the state the first in the nation to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

Budgets winding their way through the Legislature would redirect about $300,000 in federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood to state and local health clinics.

The move is similar to one in Washington that almost led to a government shutdown early this month, when Republicans wanted to shut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood in the belief that it provided indirect support for abortions.

Now, the battle is trickling down to the states, and funding assaults on Planned Parenthood are moving forward in Kansas and Indiana.

"We have the prospect of being the first state in the nation to enact that kind of law," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, proposed eliminating the Planned Parenthood funding in his proposed budget for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.

"Gov. Brownback, along with the overwhelming majority of Kansans, opposes taxpayer subsidy of abortions," said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag.

The money that goes to Planned Parenthood is sent to clinics in Wichita and Hays. They are among nine health clinics run by the organization in Kansas and mid-Missouri.

The money pays for family-planning services for low-income women. It also helps pay for contraception, pap smears and cancer screenings, among other things. It's against federal law to use the money for abortions.

The Planned Parenthood money is among $2.9 million that the state receives in so-called federal Title 10 funds, which go toward family-planning activities.

Brownlie called the plan to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding "bad policy, bad health care and bad politics."

"The majority of people believe federal funding should be available for family planning and that Planned Parenthood should be a recipient," he said.

The Hays and Wichita clinics serve nearly 9,000 people, of whom about 80 percent qualify for subsidized family-planning services, he said.

While Planned Parenthood wouldn't have to shut its doors in those cities, losing federal funds would mean fewer low-income women would be served, Brownlie said.

It could be a bigger problem in Hays in western Kansas, where family-planning services are limited. Of the eight counties adjoining Ellis County, where Hays is located, four have no such services, Brownlie said. The four other counties have limited services.

While the stated intention may be to divert that money to other agencies, Brownlie questioned whether there were plans — or even the capacity — for others to meet the needs of women.

"If that money is taken away from Planned Parenthood, fewer low-income people would get family planning services in Kansas, more will get pregnant and more will have abortions," he predicted.

But abortion foes insist on eliminating money for Planned Parenthood from the state budget.

"We oppose the taking of innocent human life," said Kathy Ostrowski, state legislative director of Kansans for Life.

"The use of mandated taxes to support it is especially indefensible when more families than ever before are seeking to adopt children," Ostrowski said.

Reach Brad Cooper at 816-234-7724 or bcooper@kcstar.com.

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