Judge blocks Kansas law aimed at Planned Parenthood

KANSAS CITY, Kan Tue Aug 2, 2011 12:24am EDT

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KANSAS CITY, Kan (Reuters) - A judge has blocked a Kansas law that would stop federal family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood, officials confirmed on Monday, and Kansas plans to appeal the decision.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the reproductive health organization, which had sued seeking to block implementation of the amendment cutting its funding.

"It appears that the Court declared a duly-enacted Kansas statute unconstitutional without engaging in the fact-finding one would expect before reaching such a conclusion," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri has said the law stops federal money for cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control for low-income patients. It has said the law amounts to restricting Kansans' access to health care.

The Kansas law is one of a number of state anti-abortion measures which have passed this year, enabled by Republican legislative majorities and governors.

"Ensuring every patient continues to receive affordable family planning services and basic preventive health care, without long-term interruption, remains our primary concern," said Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

A similar law cutting Medicaid dollars for Planned Parenthood in Indiana was blocked by a federal judge there in June. Indiana has appealed that ruling, saying the issue was an administrative matter that did not belong in the courts.

Anti-abortion activists have targeted Planned Parenthood because it provides abortion services, although federal law prohibits the organization from using federal money for abortions.

Dr. Robert Moser, secretary for Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a statement that federal money was not intended as an "entitlement program" for Planned Parenthood.

"Other providers are already offering a fuller spectrum of health care for Kansas patients," said Moser. "This highly unusual ruling implies a private organization has a right to a taxpayer subsidy. The people of Kansas disagree."

The law affected $330,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays, according to spokeswoman Sarah Gillooly.

Separately in Indiana, Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a brief asking a U.S. appeals court to reverse a ruling halting implementation of a law that blocks Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions.

"This dispute belongs between the state and the federal government that administers and funds the Medicaid program, not between a private contractor and the state," Zoeller said.

"The proper place to argue this dispute is the federal government's own administrative hearing process, established for exactly this purpose," he added.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy and Susan Guyett; Editing by Jerry Norton and Greg McCune and Cynthia Johnston)