Kansas’ Planned Parenthood Defunding Faces Federal Scrutiny

Kansas’ decision to take federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood has put the state in a vise.

On one side, the state is facing a legal assault from Planned Parenthood, which contends it is being punished because it advocates for abortion rights.

And Kansas is getting squeezed by the federal government, which is concerned about ensuring access to family planning services in certain areas of the state.

If Kansas can’t satisfy the government’s concerns, it will be at risk of losing all or part of nearly $3 million in family planning funds.

On July 7, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote to the state, saying it was worried about how Kansas planned to redistribute the money, also known as Title X funds.

At issue is a provision in the state budget that in effect took about $330,000 from Planned Parenthood and redirected it primarily to public health departments.

Planned Parenthood already has persuaded a judge to block the law temporarily, although the state appealed Tuesday. The state also separately filed a motion seeking an immediate suspension of the judge’s order pending the appeal of his decision.

But even as the litigation is playing out, the federal government is demanding answers.

Jose Belardo, regional health administrator for Health and Human Services, wants the state to provide evidence that the new agencies could adequately fill the void left by Planned Parenthood, which now sends the federal planning money to Wichita and Hays, Kan.

Concern also was expressed about Ford County, where the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic is losing its Title X funds as well. The clinic isn’t connected to Planned Parenthood and doesn’t offer abortion services, according to published reports.

The federal inquiry potentially could be moot, however, if courts continue to block enforcement of the funding provision.

But if Health and Human Services can document that Kansas — or any recipient of the funds, for that matter — isn’t meeting the terms of its federal grant, then funding could be cut off, officials said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it isn’t worried.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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