A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Kansas can strip two Planned Parenthood centers of federal family planning money as the abortion provider’s legal challenge progresses.
Kansas is among several conservative states that have sought to defund Planned Parenthood. At issue in Tuesday’s ruling was money distributed to states under Title X, a federally financed family planning program. It provides free or discounted birth control and health screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the poverty level. Planned Parenthood receives about 25 percent of this funding nationwide.
U.S. District Court Judge J. Thomas Marten blocked enforcement of the state law in 2011, ruling that it unconstitutionally intended to punish Planned Parenthood for its abortion advocacy. He ordered Kansas to continue funding Planned Parenthood until the case was resolved. He also found the state law violated the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which says states can’t impose additional requirements 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. Judge Carlos Lucero dissented, but the panel overruled him 2-1.
The panel rejected the notion that Planned Parenthood can challenge a law’s constitutionality “solely on the ground that its passage was motivated by a desire to penalize Planned Parenthood’s protected speech and association.” The two centers denied Title X funds did not provide abortions on site, so the organization argued the law violated its free speech right to associate with abortion.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” the Kansas attorney general's office said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press. “We will continue to defend Kansas law in regards to any further challenges.”
Kansas law rewrites the way the state distributes Title X funds so that, without naming Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider is essentially placed at the back of the funding line. At least 10 states in the past four years have attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, and Kansas’ less explicit method is one of the first to hold its own in federal courts.
Arizona and Indiana laws, for example, explicitly barred Planned Parenthood from parts of Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 24 refused to hear Arizona’s appeal after U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled the law violated federal rules by not allowing patients to choose their own medical providers.
To avoid that ruling against Medicaid discrimination, Texas has risked forfeiting its entire share of Medicaid’s Women’s Health Program to defund Planned Parenthood. Other states, like Ohio and North Carolina, have used methods similar to Kansas’ through their budget-making powers.
Counting Medicaid reimbursements, Planned Parenthood received $542 million in taxpayer money in the fiscal year that ended in June 2012. The funds—a $180 million increase from two years prior—amount to 45 percent of the organization’s budget, giving it financial stability to continue or expand abortion services through other funding sources. More than 330,000 abortions bring the organization $150 million a year.