WICHITA, Kan. (TheBlaze/AP) — The battle between pro-life and pro-choice advocates in Kansas is heading up after a federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Kansas can strip two Planned Parenthood clinics of federal family planning money while the organization moves forward with a lawsuit.
The organization is challenging a controversial state law stripping the clinics of funds that are not related to abortion procedures, charging that the government is retaliating because of the organization’s pro-choice advocacy.
Kansas is among several conservative states that have sought in recent years to strip Planned Parenthood of funding. At issue in Tuesday’s ruling is money distributed to states under Title X, a federally financed family planning program.
According to the Guardian, “A Kansas law requires the state to first allocate the Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, leaving no funds for the Planned Parenthood clinics.”
This money, which cannot be used for abortion, targets low-income individuals seeking reproductive services such as birth control, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood to said that the organization will lose more than $330,000 in funding if the ruling sticks as well as their eligibility for a low-cost drug purchasing program, Reuters reported.
One of the clinics could also close, according to the group.
U.S. District Court J. Thomas Marten blocked enforcement of the state law in 2011, ruling that it unconstitutionally was intended to punish Planned Parenthood for advocating for abortion rights and would likely be overturned. He ordered Kansas to continue funding Planned Parenthood until the case was resolved.
He also found the state law violates the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, saying states cannot impose additional requirements for entities to qualify for federal programs.
A divided panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned Marten’s rulings, saying Kansas can halt the funding. Tuesday’s decision is not a final ruling on the merits of the case itself, and the appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
And the battle appears to be nowhere near overGiven the split 2-1 ruling and the issues at stake in the litigation, it is also likely that the panel’s decision could be appealed to the full court for a rehearing.
The appeals court panel rejected Planned Parenthood’s claims that losing the family planning money amounted to a violation of free-speech rights for associating with abortion providers. It also said that the supremacy clause does not necessarily entitle Planned Parenthood to a court order forcing the state to continue the family planning funding.
The panel rejected the notion that Planned Parenthood can challenge the state law as unconstitutionally “solely on the ground that its passage was motivated by a desire to penalize Planned Parenthood’s protected speech and association.”
In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Carlos Lucero wrote that Marten’s ruling was “well-grounded” in its findings of fact, had correctly applied court precedent and was free of error. Lucero said he was not persuaded to follow the “vanishing trail that my colleagues pursue in an end run around the district court.”
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenged a Kansas law that requires the state to first allocate Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.
Kansas had argued Marten’s ruling “emasculates the state of Kansas’ autonomy and sovereignty rights” in the Constitution’s 11th Amendment. The state contends the law restricting the distribution of federal family planning funds does not target Planned Parenthood because the statute itself does not name the group or even mention abortion.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. We will continue to defend Kansas law in regards to any further challenges,” the Kansas attorney general’s office said in an emailed statement.
Planned Parenthood said it would issue a written statement later Tuesday in response to the decision.
The entities affected are Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Wichita and Hays, neither of which provides abortion services. The only Planned Parenthood clinic that provides abortion services in Kansas is in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. It does not receive federal family planning funding.
Efforts in other states to defund Planned Parenthood have had varying success. Texas was able to remove Planned Parenthood from a state health program for low-income women, but in Indiana, a judge barred the state from denying Medicaid funding to the organization’s clinics.