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State seeks reversal of clinic-funds ruling

  • Associated Press
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011, at 12:09 a.m.

A federal judge's order blocking a Kansas law that effectively strips Planned Parenthood of family planning funds "emasculates" the state's autonomy and sovereignty rights and should be overturned, the state argued Tuesday.

The argument was made in a 144-page filing asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside a temporary injunction ordering Kansas to continue federal funding to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri until the case is resolved.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law that required 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.

No federal money goes to pay for abortions. The Title X money targets low-income people seeking birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Planned Parenthood contended in its lawsuit that the law violates the First Amendment because it was passed to punish the organization for its advocacy of abortion rights, citing comments by the governor and the legislator who authored it urging its passage to defund Planned Parenthood.

The lawsuit also asserted that the law violates the supremacy clause because states cannot impose additional requirements for entities to qualify for federal programs.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita agreed, finding the group would likely prevail in its lawsuit and ordering the state to continue its funding.

Kansas countered Tuesday that Marten's conclusions about the merits of Planned Parenthood's claims are incorrect, contending the law does not discriminate based on any protected belief.

The state also suggested Marten failed to appropriately weigh the legal factors needed to award a mandatory injunction. It calls the order for the state to make payments to Planned Parenthood an "affront" to Kansas' sovereign immunity, which is protected by the 11th amendment.

Lee Thompson, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood, declined to comment on the state's filing, saying in an e-mail that attorneys have not had a chance to review it and would respond later in their own briefing.

The state noted in its motion that Kansas contracts with roughly 55 agencies to perform family planning services. All but two — Planned Parenthood and the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic — were public health agencies. The Dodge City clinic, which also lost Title X funds after the Kansas law was passed, asked last week to join the Planned Parenthood lawsuit.

Kansas told the appeals court that Congress passed Title X of the Public Health Services Act to promote delivery of family planning services to low-income patients because of the correlation between lack of access to contraception services and the incidence of poverty. It argued the state law prioritizes the entities the state believes will best meet a wide array of medical needs for low-income patients — such as public health agencies and hospitals — instead of specialty clinics.

"Kansas is no different than many states: seeking to do more with less," the state wrote. "The long-held and common-sense approach the State has charted is to provide funding first to its public facilities that provide a wide array of medical services to low-income citizens."

As for Planned Parenthood's First Amendment claims, the state countered that the court erred by relying on the statements of a handful of lawmakers as an accurate reflection of the entire legislative body's intent. It cited case law that the motives of quoted lawmakers are irrelevant where the statute is neutral on its face.

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