Planned Parenthood closes Hays clinic after ruling

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri announced Friday it plans to close its Hays health center to save its larger Wichita clinic in the wake of an appeals court ruling that let Kansas strip its federal family planning funding.

The organization also said it would no longer be able to provide free contraceptives and other no-cost medical services to low-income patients in Wichita without the federal money, but community donations will allow it to still offer affordable health care there.

Court documents show the two nonprofit clinics were operating at a loss even before losing the $330,000 annual influx of funds from Title X, a federally financed family planning program. The Title X money targets low-income people seeking reproductive services such as birth control, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. It cannot be used for abortions.

The Hays Center will continue seeing patients until June 26, and the facility will close its doors on June 30. Its closure leaves Ellis County without a Title X health care provider. The clinic manager and a nurse practitioner will lose their jobs in Hays, but no staff cuts are planned at the Wichita facility.

Interim CEO Ron Ellifrits said Planned Parenthood has provided health care in Kansas for more than 75 years and won’t let the changes keep it from staying committed to high-quality affordable health care.

“We’re still here for our patients, and we are fighting every day to maintain, restore, or expand access to health care in Kansas despite all the obstacles in our path,” Ellifrits said in a written statement. “The generous support of private individuals across the state, as well as the difficult decision to close our health center in Hays, will allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing services for as many Kansas women and men as possible while Kansas lawmakers continue to play politics with women’s health.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Friday its staff is working to find additional family planning services and looking at other options as it determines awards of one-year contracts for Title X providers in the state.

“We don’t want people to miss the services that they need,” said Tim Keck, deputy chief counsel for KDHE. “We have staff that works on this on a daily basis and we are working to continue to manage the situation.”

Planned Parenthood’s move comes after a sharply divided panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March overturned a federal judge’s ruling that had temporarily kept Planned Parenthood’s funding intact while the organization challenged a Kansas law. That law required the state to first allocate Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, leaving no funds for specialty family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood subsequently dropped its legal challenge to the state law.

More than 5,700 people receive health care services at the Hays and Wichita clinics. Planned Parenthood clinics in Kansas have provided more than 9,000 birth control visits each year, as well as 3,000 breast exams and pap tests, and 18,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases, according to court documents.

Last year, Planned Parenthood used Title X money to provide medical services to more than 3,700 low-income patients at its health centers in Wichita and Hays, including the 3,315 of those patients getting health care services at its Wichita clinic.

“We will work with all of our patients to provide assistance and we will continue to be there for them,” Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri spokeswoman Elise Higgins said. “But, because of that politically motivated decision, we will no longer be able to use Title X funds to provide health care for free as of June 1.”

Low-income patients will still be able to get birth control pills at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Wichita, but will have to pay as little as $12 rather than getting them for free, Higgins said. The out-of-pocket cost for the pills can be as much as $50.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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