Dodge City, Kan., Family Planning Clinic Allowed To Join Lawsuit Over Funding

October 12, 2011 — U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten on Tuesday said the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic in Kansas may join a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that challenges a new state law blocking federal Title X family planning money to the organizations, the AP/Forbes reports. The law, which took effect July 1, requires Kansas to allocate federal family planning funding to public health departments and hospitals, leaving no money for Planned Parenthood and similar groups.

Marten also said the clinic could immediately file a request to restore the funding, which the clinic did. The judge gave the state until Thursday to respond (Hegeman, AP/Forbes, 10/12).

Marten on Aug. 1 granted PPKM's request to temporarily block enforcement of the law and ordered the state to resume allocating federal Title X family planning grants to Planned Parenthood clinics. PPKM's lawsuit contends, among other things, that the law is unconstitutional because it would impose additional restrictions on a federally funded program in violation of the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which prohibits states from imposing conditions of eligibility on federal programs that are not required by federal law (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/10).

Dodge City Family Planning said that its two employees have not been paid since the law took effect and that it would be forced to close within weeks if funding is not restored. The clinic's closure would affect 650 patients, about two-thirds of whom are low-income individuals who qualify for no-cost or discounted medical services, according to AP/Forbes.

In addition to Dodge City, the law affects PPKM's clinics in Wichita and Hays -- none of which provide abortion services. Dodge City argued that it was "collateral damage" in a law meant to defund Planned Parenthood because it supports abortion rights. The Title X money is used to provide low-income patients with services such as birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

The state objected to Dodge City's bid to join the lawsuit, arguing that the clinic does not have the same First Amendment grounds to challenge the new law as PPKM. "The interest sought to be protected by Planned Parenthood, its right to provide abortion, advocate for abortion and associate with abortion providers, is not the same interest sought to be protected by [Dodge City]," attorneys for the state wrote.

Marten disagreed, ruling that while PPKM and Dodge City do not have the "same interest" in advocating for abortion rights, both clinics have a vested interest in Title X funding being applied in a constitutional manner (AP/Forbes, 10/12).