A federal judge on Tuesday weighed a Planned Parenthood request to block Kansas from cutting off Medicaid funding because the women’s health provider performs abortions, saying she was “disappointed” the state resisted her earlier suggestion to hold off on halting the money until the matter could go to trial within months.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson did not say after more than two hours of arguments when she might decide whether to block the state health department’s action.
The agency has said it plans to cut off funding July 7, though attorneys for the state suggested Tuesday that cutoff may not be until mid-September to allow for Planned Parenthood to administratively appeal.
“I’m a little disappointed the state is in this posture now,” she told Patrick Strawbridge, an attorney representing department Secretary Susan Mosier.
The state agency plans to halt funding for services such as health exams and cancer screenings provided to poor Kansas residents whose health coverage is provided by the state’s Medicaid program.
Federal courts have blocked attempts to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in other states.
In the Kansas courtroom Tuesday, a New York-based attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Diana Salgado, argued that the state’s move illegally would block patients from getting Medicaid services through qualified providers.
Salgado also suggested the state was being punitive, wrongly linking Planned Parenthoods in Kansas and Missouri to other U.S. affiliates questioned during a wave of outrage last year over stealth videos filmed by anti-abortion activists that claimed to show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue for profit.
Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations and said the videos were misleading.
Medicaid money isn’t used to fund abortions, and Kansas’ medical board in January cleared the Overland Park, Kansas, clinic — a provider of surgical and medication abortions — after completing an investigation into whether illegal sales of fetal tissue are occurring after abortions.
“Other courts have rejected this guilt-by-association argument,” Salgado told Robinson on Tuesday, calling the linkage “both factually wrong and legally irrelevant.”
Kansas already has blocked Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri from receiving federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services.
Michael Park, another attorney for the state, told the judge “there’s a lack of urgency for the court to intervene” yet because the state hasn’t formally cut off Medicaid funding.
Strawbridge, Park’s colleague, dismissed as “speculative” Planned Parenthood’s claims that losing Medicaid would force the organization regionally to cut jobs and services, perhaps close a clinic. Planned Parenthood has other revenue sources, he said.
Proving irreparable harm warranting Robinson’s stepping in “is their burden,” he said. “It is not an easy one to meet. It requires more than speculation.”