A Federal Appeals Court Just Allowed Kansas To Defund Planned Parenthood


On Tuesday, a federal court of appeals agreed to let Kansas strip family planning funding from Planned Parenthood while a legal challenge on the matter proceeds. The national women’s health organization is decrying the attack on low-income women’s access to reproductive health care, and pledging to remain open in Kansas despite losing its funding there.

Before this ruling, the two Planned Parenthood clinics in Kansas used Title X funds to provide birth control services to over 9,000 women, as well as more than 2,800 cancer screenings and 8,000 STD tests.

Kansas is one of several conservative states that have recently attempted to attack Planned Parenthood by targeting the organization’s federal funding for preventative services for low-income women. Anti-choice state lawmakers typically claim that Planned Parenthood should be barred from using these funds because it’s an abortion provider — despite the fact that federal dollars are already prohibited from financing abortion.

In 2011, a U.S. District Court judge blocked Kansas from moving forward with its plan to defund Planned Parenthood, pointing out that this type of state law is simply intended to punish the organization for supporting abortion rights. But this week, a divided panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that decision, rejecting the argument that the state law is unconstitutional because it was “motivated by a desire to penalize Planned Parenthood’s protected speech and association.”

It’s not a final ruling — the issue will return to the lower courts for further consideration, and another appeal is likely. And Planned Parenthood is prepared to fight to keep its clinics open no matter what happens with the complicated legal challenge.

“Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will be here for the women and men who rely on us and we will continue to fight for them — no matter what. Planned Parenthood’s doors remain open in Kansas and in more than 700 health centers across the country,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “We will explore every possible option to protect the health of women in Kansas.”

Richards also pointed out that it’s becoming increasingly important to support lawmakers who will work to protect reproductive health. “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,” she noted.

Planned Parenthood is one of the largest family planning providers in the nation, providing care for more than a third of all U.S. women who receive their preventative care at a Title X-funded clinic. Even Republicans acknowledge that Title X is an incredibly cost-effective program for preventing unintended pregnancies and safeguarding women’s health. But over the past several years, it’s been caught in the crossfires of unrelated crusades against abortion providers.

Similar attempts to strip funding from Planned Parenthood have failed in other states across the country, as judges have maintained that it’s not fair to limit low-income women’s pool of qualified health providers based on a partisan position about abortion. So far, Texas is the only state that’s successfully eliminated the organization’s funding. The state recently relaunched its family planning program for low-income women using solely state funds, rather than the previous mix of state and federal money, specifically to exclude Planned Parenthood. Since the women’s health organization used to be the largest family planning provider for low-income Texans, the results of that move have been devastating. Reproductive health activists are now using Texas a negative model to illustrate what happens when states cut family planning.