Politics & Government

Planned Parenthood sues state after being defunded by Brownback administration

The state has notified Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that it will defund the organization effective May 10.
The state has notified Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that it will defund the organization effective May 10. File photo

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Kansas after receiving a letter announcing that it would be defunded beginning May 10.

The lawsuit alleges the state’s move to pull funds from Planned Parenthood is “unlawful, unwarranted and politically motivated.”

Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Wednesday that Gov. Sam Brownback defunded Planned Parenthood “in order to protect the unborn and support a culture of life in Kansas. Planned Parenthood has been fully informed of the reasons for this decision, including their own refusal to submit to a lawful inspection of their premises.”

This is an outrageous attempt by Governor Brownback to punish the women and men who have freely chosen Planned Parenthood for their health care for decades.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri

Planned Parenthood’s money from the state comes through Medicaid, called KanCare in Kansas, which provides health care for low-income and disabled Kansans.

Some of the services it covers include annual exams, birth control, preventative care and breast exams. Medicaid does not cover abortions. The state health department said Planned Parenthood received roughly $56,000 in calendar year 2014 and about $38,000 in 2015.

“We were preparing” to be defunded, said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “But we never cease to be surprised by the extent the governor will use his office to further his authority and political agenda.”

We never cease to be surprised by the extent the governor will use his office to further his authority and political agenda.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri

The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood and 11 individual medical providers whom the state made ineligible for reimbursements through Medicaid.

Brownback’s promise to defund

Brownback previously promised to defund Planned Parenthood in his State of the State address in January and cited video images that anti-abortion activists say show Planned Parenthood executives arranging for the sale of fetal tissue and organs for medical research.

A few days later a grand jury in Texas indicted two of the videographers on charges of tampering with a government record. Brownback said at the time that he did not think the indictments meant the videos had been discredited.

The May 3 letter from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the order was made at the direction of the governor, through the head of the state health department.

In the letter, Brownback cited these reasons for taking away Planned Parenthood’s state funding: noncompliance with laws, administrative regulations or with providing medical provider information; noncompliance with provider agreements; unethical or unprofessional conduct; and “other good cause.”

Brownback’s reasons to defund Planned Parenthood: noncompliance with laws, administrative regulations or with providing medical provider information; noncompliance with provider agreements; unethical or unprofessional conduct; and “other good cause.”

Inspections

The state initially notified Planned Parenthood of the state’s plan to defund the program in a March 10 letter, which alleged that Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic prevented a state waste inspector from completing a December inspection and photographing certain portions of the facility.

In December, the inspector presented a search warrant signed by a Johnson County judge at the clinic, but was allowed only to inspect waste receptacles in two exam rooms before Planned Parenthood staff stopped the inspector.

Planned Parenthood’s attorneys claimed the facility did not hinder the waste inspection, but was instead trying to protect patient privacy, according to the letter.

The state’s letter goes on to say that: “the facility’s lack of cooperation with the inspection causes the State concern that further investigation could have led to discoveries of solid waste violations, in addition to discoveries like those identified in videos of other national” Planned Parenthood locations.

The state said in a letter that an inspection of Planned Parenthood could have led to discoveries of violations. Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit says the state’s speculation is illegitimate.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit says the state’s reasoning to defund the program was illegitimate for three reasons: the national videos were discredited, the state speculated about what an inspection could have shown, and it used allegations about Planned Parenthood locations in other states as reasoning to defund Planned Parenthood in Kansas.

The lawsuit also says the state violated a law known as the Medicaid “free choice of provider requirement” that allows patients to receive services from providers of their choice.

Impact on Wichita

Planned Parenthood has clinics in Wichita and Overland Park.

The organization announced March 22 that it was expanding access to the abortion pill in Wichita as well as treatments for menopause and HIV prevention medicine along with transgender care.

McQuade, of Planned Parenthood, said in a conference call with journalists late Wednesday that the Wichita location by far sees the most patients, including the most Medicaid patients.

In total, she said, Planned Parenthood sees about 500 Medicaid patients each year out of its total 10,000 men and women served by their clinics.

She noted that Brownback’s decision, added to Sedgwick County budget cuts to the county health department, would compound problems with access to care already present in the community.

“It will have a dramatic impact on the Wichita community, and obviously across the rest of the state,” she said.

Reactions

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, called the state’s move to pull funding an attack on women, saying that it would affect low-income and young women who rely on Planned Parenthood for gynecological services.

“By withdrawing these funds, which were not used for abortions, all you’re doing is taking away primary healthcare for women,” Kelly said.

“If people were truly concerned about reducing the number of abortions they would be enhancing funding for entities like Planned Parenthood and our community health clinics, so that women could get good family planning care,” she added. “The only way we’re ever going to reduce abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.”

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group based in Wichita, said “hallelujah” when he heard about the announcement.

“Mark my words, this is the beginning of the end of Planned Parenthood,” he said, adding that he foresees federal legal issues for Planned Parenthood.

“Really, the stripping of their money is the least of their worries,” Newman said.

Planned Parenthood, has a month to formally request a hearing with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, but McQuade, president of Planned Parenthood, said the organization does not plan to pursue a hearing because of their unsuccessful attempts in the past.

“We moved immediately to legal action,” she said.

Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor who was a keynote speaker at the Planned Parenthood conference in Kansas City, talked with reporters after her speech. Video by Joe Ledford

Supporters of Planned Parenthood held a rally in downtown Wichita on Tuesday to show support for the 80-year-old organization.

Gov. Sam Brownback repeatedly criticized Planned Parenthood during a news conference July 24, 2015, after calling for the Board of Healing Arts to investigate abortion facilities.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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