Politics & Government

State asks judge if it can pay Planned Parenthood monthly

TOPEKA — Kansas asked a federal judge Friday whether it can make monthly payments to Planned Parenthood while it pursues an appeal of his order requiring the state to keep providing the group with federal funds to finance its non-abortion services.

Lawyers for the attorney general's office raised the issue a day after Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri's top administrator publicly accused the state of violating an Aug. 1 order from U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten of Wichita.

The order blocked a provision of the state budget aimed at preventing Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the state's share of federal family planning dollars.

President and CEO Peter Brownlie said the Planned Parenthood chapter hasn't received any funds from the state Department of Health and Environment, despite Marten's order. The state is appealing the decision, but Planned Parenthood contends it is still obligated to turn over the money immediately.

Marten this week rejected a request from the state to suspend his order while the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver considers whether to overturn it. The state's filing Friday said Kansas intends to request a stay from the appeals court.

The state's lawyers said they believe monthly payments to Planned Parenthood "will fully comply" with Marten's order and "more than fully protect against any harm" alleged by the group from the budget provision. Also, the state wants Planned Parenthood to post bond, so that any funds it receives can be recovered and redistributed should the appeals court side with the state.

The state contracted with the Planned Parenthood chapter for at least 25 years to provide medical exams and birth control to low-income Kansans before this year's budget provision. Legislators who backed the provision said repeatedly they wanted to defund the group, which performs abortions at one of its three clinics, in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park.

State officials and Brownlie declined to comment, though Brownlie said Planned Parenthood would file an answer in writing with the court.

Brownlie said Thursday that the Planned Parenthood chapter was considering going back to Marten to force the state to turn over the federal funds. Marten's ruling Aug. 1 came in a lawsuit the group filed against Gov. Sam Brownback and Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser.

"We and our attorneys are talking about what our next steps are," Brownlie said Thursday. "The state's refusal to comply with the court's order is rather remarkable."

Planned Parenthood has clinics in Overland Park, Hays and Wichita. It says it keeps abortion financially separate from other services, but critics argue any tax dollars for the group indirectly subsidize abortions.

Marten agreed with Planned Parenthood that it was singled out unfairly for advocating abortion rights, violating its rights to free speech and due legal process. He also said the provision is an improper attempt to impose a state rule on a federal funding program.

The budget provision didn't mention Planned Parenthood by name but required the state to distribute federal family planning dollars first to public health departments and hospitals. The policy would leave the health department with no funds to give to Planned Parenthood; most of the group's past allocation was committed to Sedgwick County's health department.