Judge blocks Kansas law defunding Planned Parenthood

Legislation meant to punish group for stance, he says

By Roxana Hegeman
Associated Press / August 2, 2011

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WICHITA, Kan. - A federal judge said yesterday that Planned Parenthood would probably succeed in overturning a new Kansas law that would deny the group access to federal family planning funding, saying he believes the law is unconstitutional and was intended to punish Planned Parenthood for advocating for abortion rights.

US District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted Planned Parenthood of Kansas’s request for a temporary injunction blocking the law, which would require the state to allocate federal family planning dollars first to public health departments and hospitals, and leave no money for Planned Parenthood or similar groups.

Planned Parenthood argued that without the injunction, it would have lost $330,000 in federal Title X annual funding and been forced to close its clinic in Hays.

It contended that its 5,700 patients would face higher costs and have less access to services and longer wait or travel times for appointments.

Planned Parenthood has sued to overturn the law, and Marten’s order was to remain in effect until the case is resolved.

In his ruling, Marten agreed with Planned Parenthood’s argument that the statute is unconstitutional because it would impose additional restrictions on a federally funded program, thereby violating the Supremacy Clause.

He also agreed with the group’s contention that the law probably violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because he believes it was intended to punish the group for advocating for abortion rights.

Even if a statute does not appear unconstitutional on its face, it is nevertheless invalid if enacted for an improper discriminatory purpose, and the evidence before the court is that it was enacted precisely for this purpose, Marten said.

“The purpose of the statute was to single out, punish, and exclude Planned Parenthood,’’ Marten said.

The Title X funding targets low-income individuals and helps pay for reproductive health care services such as contraception, cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The state contends that the injunction was unnecessary because other entities could provide the same services that Planned Parenthood offers in Sedgwick and Ellis counties.

Yesterday’s hearing was the first legal test of the statute. Planned Parenthood is challenging its constitutionality based on the Supremacy Clause, which prohibits states from imposing conditions of eligibility on federal programs that are not required by federal law.

Kansas has defended the statute as a matter of state sovereignty, arguing that an injunction would unconstitutionally replace the state’s discretion with the court’s judgment.

Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said that the judge’s ruling was clear and unambiguous that the law was unconstitutional and enacted for the wrong purpose.

“We take comfort in the fact that the judge said we have a strong likelihood of prevailing on the merits when the full case is heard,’’ Brownlie said.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Chanay said the state will review the judge’s ruling before determining how to proceed.

Planned Parenthood offers abortion services in Kansas only at its clinic in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, but it also has clinics in Wichita and Hays. top stories on Twitter

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