Reproductive Rights

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback Moves to Defund Planned Parenthood

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has formally notified Planned Parenthood that it will ban the healthcare provider from the state’s Medicaid program, following through on a pledge made by Governor Sam Brownback earlier this year.

In his State of the State address in January, Brownback declared that he would direct Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Susan Mosier to “ensure that not a single dollar of taxpayer money goes to Planned Parenthood.” He went on to say that he “welcome[s] legislation that would enshrine this directive in state law.” Planned Parenthood currently receives about $61,000 in Medicaid reimbursements from the state, allowing low-income individuals to access health exams, cancer screenings, and STI treatment and counseling.

“I am disappointed on behalf of the women who rely on us for health care that the governor has chosen to make them his political scapegoat,” said Elise Higgins, government affairs manager for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in response to the January announcement.

Brownback’s mandate is the latest in a series of attempts by anti-abortion politicians to defund Planned Parenthood following last year’s release of several deceptive videos by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) which falsely accused the healthcare provider of selling fetal tissue.  To date, federal and state-level investigations have turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood and the fraudulent videos have been debunked repeatedly. The only people to be indicted are two of the people behind the misleading videos, including CMP head David Daleiden, who has been charged with a felony.

Governor Brownback has signed numerous laws to restrict abortion access while in office, including a ban on the safest, most common kind of second-trimester abortion. That law was blocked by the Kansas Court of Appeals. Brownback also signed a 2013 law that requires that abortion providers supply women with a list of organizations that provide abortion alternatives, prevents any abortion facility from receiving state funding or tax credits, and requires doctors to provide patients with medically inaccurate information.

The latest move to block Planned Parenthood from state Medicaid funding has been tried, so far unsuccessfully, in at least four other states – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah. In each of those states, federal courts have stepped in to prevent these efforts, which restrict Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to healthcare services.

Just recently, a federal judge granted class action status in a lawsuit originally brought by three Arkansas women challenging Governor Asa Hutchinson’s attempts to defund the healthcare provider. The ruling allows Planned Parenthood of the Heartland to represent any Medicaid patient seeking care at a Planned Parenthood in the state. In October, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker temporarily blocked the state from cutting off Medicaid funds. Planned Parenthood last week asked the court to extend that order until the case reaches a final resolution.

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