Planned Parenthood supporters seek continued funds

TOPEKA | Gov. Mark Parkinson is expected to make his first decision about an abortion measure this week, when he takes up the Legislature’s budget-balancing bill.

Parkinson has said his views on abortion are “very similar” to those held by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion rights supporter who resigned last month to become U.S. health and human services secretary. However, he has not acted yet on any bills dealing with abortion.

That will change when he deals with the bill that balances the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The bill includes a provision that would abolish state funding for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, and Parkinson could veto that measure while maintaining the rest of the bill.

The budget that had been approved by the Legislature and Sebelius earlier this year had promised Planned Parenthood $250,000 in state funding for the 2010 fiscal year. But lawmakers had to amend that budget with a new bill when state revenue projections dropped.

The governor’s office said Parkinson plans to act on that budget-balancing bill sometime this week. Parkinson has said he won’t announce in advance what action he will take on any legislation.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood are urging him to veto the provision eliminating the group’s funding. However, anti-abortion groups want the governor to leave the measure alone.

Planned Parenthood performs abortions at its clinic in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, but says no state funds it receives go toward the procedures. Instead, the money goes to clinics in Ellis and Segdwick counties, where abortions are not performed.

About two dozen supporters of the group gathered outside the Statehouse on Tuesday to urge Parkinson to use his line-item veto power. Parkinson was in Wichita at the time, and the group left petitions with about 3,500 signatures at the governor’s office.

“If Planned Parenthood loses funding, there’s going to be a large number of innocent people hurt,” Planned Parenthood attorney Pedro Irigonegarary said. “Planned Parenthood is about family values. They have taken those two words from us and now it’s time to take them back.”

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Fowler Republican who added the provision to the budget-balancing bill, called it “a big victory for the taxpayers” and said the money instead would go to public health clinics and hospitals.

“In an era of drastic funding problems for state hospitals and safety net clinics, why in the world should a highly profitable private abortion business gobble up our tax money?” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.

She said her group is urging members to contact legislators and the governor’s office. If he does veto the prohibition, lawmakers could attempt an override.

It’s not the first abortion measure to make it to the governor’s desk this year.

In March, Sebelius signed a bill ensuring that those seeking abortions are allowed to see ultrasound images or hear their fetus’ heartbeat at least 30 minutes before the procedure. The bill, which takes effect July 1, also requires doctors to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing an abortion.

A few days before resigning, Sebelius vetoed a bill that would have increased the reporting requirements for doctors who perform late-term abortions and allowed lawsuits over potentially illegal procedures. That bill was directed at Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita, one of the few physicians who performs late-term abortions in the U.S.

The Senate failed to override the veto.

——— Bill with spending cuts is Senate Sub for HB 2373.