WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri dropped its legal challenge Friday to a Kansas law that stripped two of its Kansas clinics of federal money for family planning, leaving uncertain the impact to its low-income patients in Wichita and Hays who depend upon them for reproductive health care services.
The organization filed a brief stipulation of dismissal Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas.
Kansas is among several conservative states that have sought in recent years to strip Planned Parenthood of taxpayer funding. At issue in the case is money distributed to states under 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 development comes in the wake of an appeals court ruling in March finding that Kansas could strip clinics in Wichita and Hays of the funds while Planned Parenthood pressed its lawsuit contesting a state law it calls retaliation for its advocacy of abortion rights.
But Friday’s court filing ends the litigation.
“We take seriously our duty to defend Kansas law against legal challenges,” Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a written statement. “This law was successfully defended.”
His statement did not address what provisions, if any, the state was making to provide low-cost reproductive services that had been funded through federal planning dollars at the clinics. His office referred that question to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which did not immediately respond to phone messages.
Planned Parenthood nonprofit health centers in Kansas had cared for more than 5,700 people each year through the Title X program.
“Our top priority continues to be providing high-quality, lifesaving health care to Kansas women and their families,” Ron Ellifrits, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said in a written statement Friday. “Despite years of sustained attacks from Kansas politicians, Planned Parenthood will be here for the Kansans who rely on us and we will continue to fight for them - no matter what. We will explore every possible option to protect the health of Kansas women and families.”
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit had challenged a Kansas law that requires the state to first allocate Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.
Kansas had countered that the state law restricting the distribution of federal family planning funds does not target Planned Parenthood because the statute itself does not name the group or even mention abortion.
U.S. District Court J. Thomas Marten temporarily blocked enforcement of the state law in 2011 until the case was resolved. But a sharply divided panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned Marten’s rulings, saying Kansas can halt the funding and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
The entities affected are Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Wichita and Hays, neither of which provides abortion services. The only Planned Parenthood clinic that provides abortion services in Kansas is in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. It does not receive federal family planning funding.
Efforts in other states to defund Planned Parenthood have had varying success. Texas was able to remove Planned Parenthood from a state health program for low-income women, but in Indiana a judge barred the state from denying Medicaid funding to the organization’s clinics.
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