March 26, 2014 — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Kansas may enforce a state law that blocks federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics while a case over the merits of the law proceeds, the AP/ABC News reports (Hegeman, AP/ABC News, 3/25).
In 2011, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against a provision in the 2012 state budget that prevents the organization from receiving Title X federal family planning funding. The budget provision requires that the state's portion of federal family planning funds go to public health departments and hospitals.
Kansas in its 2012-2013 budget received about $2.7 million through Title X, which helps pay for contraceptive services and supplies, Pap tests, cancer screenings and other preventive health services for low-income women. The money cannot be used to pay for abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7/11). Planned Parenthood has said that the law would result in a $330,000 funding loss, the end of its eligibility for a low-cost drug-purchasing program and the likely closure of its clinic in Hays (Bailey, Reuters, 3/26).
Lower Court Ruling
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten in 2011 granted Planned Parenthood's request to block enforcement of the law while the case proceeds. He said that the law likely would be overturned because it was unconstitutionally designed to penalize Planned Parenthood for the organization's support of abortion rights. He also said that the law violated the Constitution's supremacy clause because states are not permitted to require entities to meet certain criteria to qualify for federal programs.
Marten ordered the state to continue to provide funding to Planned Parenthood until the case was resolved.
Appeals Court Ruling
In its 2-1 ruling on Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Marten's ruling and permitted the state to cease the funding to Planned Parenthood while the lawsuit continues.
The majority said in its opinion that Planned Parenthood cannot challenge the state law as unconstitutional "solely on the ground that its passage was motivated by a desire to penalize Planned Parenthood's protected speech and association" (AP/ABC News, 3/25). The judges added, "Planned Parenthood's theory raises the prospect of every loser in a political battle claiming that enactment of legislation it opposed was motivated by hostility toward the loser's speech" (Reuters, 3/26).
The judges also said that the supremacy clause does not necessarily entitle Planned Parenthood to a court order requiring that the state continue funding the organization (AP/ABC News, 3/25). They said only HHS -- not Planned Parenthood or any other private organization -- may contest the state law (Rosenblatt, Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/25).
In a dissent, Judge Carlos Lucero argued that the Marten's ruling was "well-grounded" in findings of fact, was free of error and aptly applied court precedent. He added that he was not convinced to follow the "vanishing trail that my colleagues pursue in an end run around the district court."
The appeals court remanded the case back to the lower court for a judgment on the law's merits. According to the AP/ABC News, the appeals court's split ruling suggests that its decision could be appealed to the full 10th Circuit.
The Kansas Attorney General's Office said in a statement that it is "pleased" with the ruling and "will continue to defend Kansas law in regards to any further challenges."
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood noted that it had used Title X funding to provide care for over 5,700 people each year. The ruling affects two clinics in the state -- one in Hays and another in Wichita -- neither of which provides abortion care (AP/ABC News, 3/25).
The organization said it is reviewing its legal options (Reuters, 3/26). Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards added in a statement that Planned Parenthood would remain open in Kansas, saying, "What's clear is that for lasting change, we need new leadership at the state level -- to prevent these cruel and dangerous laws from passing in the first place" (Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/25).