WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Since Kansas won its fight to strip Planned Parenthood and another clinic of federal family planning dollars more than a year ago, promising to use those funds at other medical facilities and offer the same services, the state has instead lost the money and many services for low-income patients have been cut.
The loss of about $370,000 annually in Title X money that two Planned Parenthood facilities in Wichita and Hays and an unaffiliated clinic in Dodge City had been receiving - none of which paid for abortions - has meant low-income patients are finding it harder to access birth control, cancer screenings and other reproductive health care services, medical providers say.
“People have fewer places to go, and for those with limited means that may make utilizing those services even more difficult,” said J’Vonnah Maryman, director for public health at the Sedgwick County Health Department.
An examination by The Associated Press of Title X distributions showed that not only has the Sedgwick County Health Department not gotten any extra money to make up for the free contraceptives and other free medical care that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Wichita can no longer afford to provide, but the state has actually cut the Title X money the health department had received in the past.
Patients in Ellis County and Ford County, where family planning clinics closed more than a year ago, still have no Title X medical provider there to serve poor families.
“We have a number of women in Kansas who need publically funded contraception and services, but aren’t receiving it,” said Elise Higgins, manager of government affairs for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment insists it continues to ensure family planning services are available for all Kansans.
A push to defund Planned Parenthood in other states has gained steam after recordings secretly made by an anti-abortion group were released that raised questions of whether the organization was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. It is legal for women who’ve terminated their pregnancies to donate fetal tissue, and Planned Parenthood has said it did nothing illegal.
Since the recordings surfaced, eight states - Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin - have introduced measures to defund the organization, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that does research on reproductive health. Between 2011 and July 2015, 11 states - Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin - had already taken various steps to limit Planned Parenthood’s funding, she said.
In Kansas’ case, the state had long contended that it could better provide reproductive health care services for low-income patients by shifting the Title X resources to medical facilities that provide a wider range of medical services. In places like Sedgwick County where Planned Parenthood had a large clinic, the state told the court it would increase funding to the local health department, the other Title X provider in the county.
Lawmakers passed legislation in 2011 directing the state health department to give the federal funds first to public health departments and hospitals, effectively leaving no money for the specialized family planning clinics. Planned Parenthood sued, and a federal appeals court panel ultimately sided with Kansas. In May 2014, Planned Parenthood announced it was closing its clinic in Hays in order to save its larger Wichita clinic. The unaffiliated family planning clinic in Dodge City also closed.
When pressed to account for the Title X money more than a year later, KDHE acknowledged in an email that the federal government had reduced its funding to Kansas by the amount previously awarded to Planned Parenthood - “so there was no additional funding to give to other clinics.”
The AP’s examination of Title X distributions by KDHE the past three years found that the state also slashed the share of federal family planning funds that the Sedgwick County health department had previously gotten. Those figures show Sedgwick County’s health department is expected to receive $167,790 in family planning funds for fiscal year 2016, compared to $276,900 in fiscal 2014.
Kansas contends that low income families in places like Ellis and Ford counties can travel outside the county to get reproductive health care services elsewhere.
Before losing its $330,000 in Title X funds, Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays had provided 9,000 birth control visits, 3,000 pap tests, 3,000 breast exams, and 18,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood said it is seeing fewer patients now at its Wichita clinic, particularly the very low-income families who rely on Title X for birth control and medical services like testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screenings. It had no currently available figures. Its clinics in Wichita and Hays once provided reproductive health care services to more than 5,700 people.
Maryman said her county health department has not seen the increase in patients it anticipated after Planned Parenthood stopped providing free contraception in Wichita. The 3,000 patients the county sees on average each year for family planning services has remained stable, she said.
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