A federal judge in Kansas issued another victory for Planned Parenthood on Monday, temporarily blocking the implementation of a law that would have defunded the family planning provider and forced it to close at least one of its three clinics in the state. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said the decision could cause other states to think twice before passing defunding laws, despite the wave of anti-Planned Parenthood bills that have been put forth during the 2011 legislative sessions.
"Proponents of these defunding attempts have said they will pursue these types of measures next year," said Rachel Sussman, senior policy analyst for Planned Parenthood, in a press conference Monday. "I don't think we have seen the end of this, and I would urge folks to take the court decisions we do have on this very seriously in hopes that we can avoid seeing more of these types of bills next year."
Planned Parenthood's legal team argued in court that the defunding law, which blocked all Title X family planning funds to entities that provide abortions, was unconstitutional because it penalized Planned Parenthood for providing a legal health service and took away patients' freedom to choose a qualified health provider. The state, represented by the same private law firm that has defended the billionaire Koch brothers in the past, argued that the bill didn't cause any irreparable harm because patients could go elsewhere for family planning and preventative care services.
According to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM), the law would have forced it to raise costs for the 5,700 low- to moderate-income women and men it currently serves and to close down its clinic located in Hays, Kansas.
“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 PPKM. "We’re pleased today’s decision allows us to honor that commitment at least while this lawsuit proceeds.”
Planned Parenthood already won a legal battle against a similar defunding measure in Indiana this summer with the help of a strong rebuke from the Obama administration. Sussman said their legal team is now shifting focus to a court battle in North Carolina, where lawmakers recently overrode the governor's veto of a budget bill that zeroes out funding for Planned Parenthood. They are "closely watching" defunding amendments in Wisconsin and New Hampshire as well.
"One of the reasons we have courts is to ensure that legislative bodies can't just enact laws that violate the rights of citizens and organizations without checks and balances," said Brownlie. "But I don't believe the courts are our only refuge — the vast majority of Americans and Kansans disagree with the positions this legislature has taken.
"I remain optimistic that in subsequent elections the citizens of Kansas will make it clear that they didn't send this legislature to Topeka this year to defund Planned Parenthood," he added. "They sent them to fix our economy."