An official in Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said notice was sent 11 days ago to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that the organization would be banned from Kansas’ Medicaid program—a move that courts have blocked in other states.
Melika Willoughby, deputy communications director for Brownback, confirmed in an email to Rewire that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent letters on March 10 to local Planned Parenthood affiliates notifying officials of termination from state Medicaid, including KanCare.
A Planned Parenthood spokesperson told Rewire that the organization continues to provide health-care services to Medicaid patients, and did not confirm that the organization received the letters from the Brownback administration.
“Planned Parenthood is and continues to be a qualified Medicaid provider in Kansas. Continuing to provide preventive health care to Medicaid patients across the state is our number one priority,” Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Misssouri, told Rewire.
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Brownback, a staunchly anti-choice governor, said in January’s State of the State address that he would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. That came months after the release of the first round of deceptively edited, surreptitiously recorded videos smearing Planned Parenthood officials.
The videos, released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), prompted a string of Republican-led investigations into the health-care organization. The investigations have failed to turn up any wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood, and CMP’s leaders have been indicted on charges related to the videos.
Planned Parenthood would lose $61,000 in Medicaid reimbursements, which fund health exams, cancer screenings, and birth control for low-income people, Elise Higgins, Kansas manager of government affairs at Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told the Associated Press.
“I am disappointed on behalf of the women who rely on us for health care that the governor has chosen to make them his political scapegoat,” Higgins said.
Brownback sent a letter in January to the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment directing the agency to “take all necessary steps to terminate Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and all associated medical providers from Kansas Medicaid, including KanCare.”
The termination of the organization from Kansas’ Medicaid program would affect two Planned Parenthood facilities in the state: the Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park and the Wichita Health Center.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told the Associated Press last week that she expected the letters to arrive eventually. “Whether or not it’s legal, whether or not it’s rational, whether or not it’s constitutional, those aren’t the guiding principles,” she said.
McQuade added that Brownback’s attempt to block Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program is an attempt to divert attention from the state’s ongoing budget problems, brought on in part by Brownback’s massive tax cuts.
“You can never discount the fact that Planned Parenthood is a convenient target for Gov. Brownback,” McQuade said.
Brownback has passed a series of anti-choice laws in his five years as governor, including the first law in the nation banning dilation and evacuation, a common medical procedure used after miscarriages and in second-trimester abortions. That law has been blocked by the state court of appeals, and the state has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Kansas.