TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas cannot cut off Medicaid funding for two Planned Parenthood affiliates, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kansas, issued the temporary ruling in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and the organization's St. Louis regional affiliate.
Robinson wrote that Medicaid patients have "the explicit right to seek family planning services from the qualified provider of their choice."
The court also noted that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed on their claim that the state violated a free-choice provider provision in the Medicaid Act.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment planned to cut off funding by Thursday for health services offered at Planned Parenthood facilities, such as exams and cancer screenings, for poor patients receiving health coverage through the state's Medicaid program. Medicaid funds do not cover abortions.
"The Governor will continue the fight to make Kansas a pro-life state," Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, said in an email. "We will review today's preliminary ruling and move forward with the litigation."
Federal courts have blocked attempts by other states to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, including Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Utah.
"We promised to fight Governor Brownback's fool's errand in his attempt to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and today marks one more step forward in defending access for patients," Laura McQuade, the affiliate's president and CEO said in a written statement.
In its defense, Kansas' health department cited a dispute in December over its attempts to inspect the handling of solid waste at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas, which was later resolved. The department also cited allegations against Planned Parenthood affiliates in Oklahoma and Texas that Planned Parenthood called unfounded.
Planned Parenthood attorneys argue that the organization is being targeted because it provides abortions. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, is a vocal abortion opponent.
Kansas already has blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services in the state. The affiliate provides both surgical and medication abortions at its clinic in Overland Park, in far eastern Kansas near Kansas City, Missouri. It began providing the medication abortions at its Wichita clinic in March.
Planned Parenthood's St. Louis affiliate is involved in the lawsuit because its clinic in Joplin, Missouri, serves some Kansas patients.
Kansas initially planned to cut off Medicaid funding on May 10, but the state delayed the action three times after the lawsuit was filed.
Heath department officials have cited videos secretly recorded and released last year by anti-abortion activists that show Planned Parenthood officials in other states talking about the handling of fetal tissues. Planned Parenthood officials contend the videos were selectively edited as part of a smear campaign, and two anti-abortion activists involved in the videos have been indicted on criminal charges in Texas.
Brownback last year directed the state's medical board, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, to investigate whether commercial fetal tissue sales were occurring in Kansas. Planned Parenthood's Kansas-Mid Missouri affiliate doesn't have a program for fetal tissue donations, and a board attorney said in January that no action would be taken.
Kansas health officials also cited concerns about Medicaid claims and overbilling raised publicly in November by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, another anti-abortion Republican. Planned Parenthood has said her claims are exaggerated. Oklahoma had threatened to cut off Medicaid funds to two Planned Parenthood affiliates last month but extended it for another year.