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Scope of federal law is focus in clinic suit

  • Associated Press
  • Published Tuesday, July 26, 2011, at 12:09 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 26, 2011, at 7:25 a.m.

The state of Kansas defended a budget provision that defunded a Planned Parenthood chapter as a matter of state sovereignty, arguing in a court document that a proposed injunction would unconstitutionally replace the state's discretion with the court's judgment.

But Planned Parenthood has contended the provision unconstitutionally imposes additional conditions of eligibility for a federal program that are not required by federal law.

Which argument prevails will help determine whether U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten grants the preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. He is expected to rule next week.

Planned Parenthood, which has received federal funding for the past 25 years, expects the new provision to strip it of about $330,000 in annual funding for its Wichita and Hays health centers. The centers provide services to about 4,720 patients in Wichita and 960 individuals in Hays.

It contends the new law likely will force it to close one or more health centers in Kansas. If the statute is allowed to stand, thousands of patients would face higher costs, less access to services and longer wait or travel times for appointments, the group said.

The state argued in court that other entities could provide the same services Planned Parenthood offers in Sedgwick and Ellis counties.

Planned Parenthood's lawsuit challenges a budget provision that requires the state's portion of federal family planning dollars go first to public health departments and hospitals. It leaves no money for Planned Parenthood and similar groups.

The court filings will set the legal groundwork for anticipated oral arguments Monday on Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary order barring the new statute from taking effect while its legal challenge works its way through the federal courts.

The state's 55-page response filed Friday to that request makes little mention of the contentious issue — abortion — that arguably spawned the statute and the subsequent lawsuit.

Although none of the Title X federal funding for family planning that is at issue in the case goes to abortion services, Planned Parenthood contends the state budget provision represents a punishment for publicly advocating abortion rights. Its lawsuit also alleges the provision violates the organization's rights to free speech and legal due process.

Planned Parenthood offers abortion services in Kansas only at its clinic in Overland Park.

"The effect of this provision — and indeed, its purpose — is to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in the Title X program because it performs or is affiliated with the provision of abortion services," attorneys for the clinic wrote.

In its formal response, however, attorneys for the state noted the budget provision does not mention abortion.

The state also contended that the new statute is consistent with the purpose of Title X to provide family planning services to low-income families. It argued that Planned Parenthood can apply directly to the federal government for those funds, as it has done in other parts of the country. And the state contended Planned Parenthood was not "entitled" to a contract with the state for the Title X funds, regardless of whether the statute was or was not passed.

Attorneys for the state said in its lawsuit that the state does not now have a contract with Planned Parenthood. It noted it has entered into a contract with the Sedgwick County Health Department to expand its family planning services and is negotiating with another agency.

"The proposed injunction would commandeer one of the State's agencies, forcing the State to cancel past contracts and enter into new ones selected by the Court," the state argued. "The proposed injunction would violate the State's sovereignty and unconstitutionally replace the State's discretion with the Court's judgment."

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood cited the Supremacy Clause in arguing that they are likely to win their lawsuit. They contended in their filing that the federal government may impose terms and conditions on money it distributes to the states and once the state chooses to accept the money under a voluntary program, such as Title X, the state is bound by the requirements the federal government established for those funds.

"Kansas is not the first state to target abortion providers in the Title X program," the clinic's attorneys wrote. "Courts have repeatedly rejected such efforts as violating the Supremacy Clause."

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