(Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
A panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Kansas law that might strip two Planned Parenthood clinics of money distributed under a federally financed family planning program known as Title X.
The three-judge panel in Denver on Tuesday overturned a district judge's ruling that required Kansas to continue funding Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays, using federal Title X funds that subsidize family planning services for low income families.
Planned Parenthood operates three facilities in the state, with one providing abortion services and the other two, Wichita and Hays, providing abortion referrals.
In 2011, Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a law requiring the state to first allocate Title X funds to public health departments and hospitals before giving any money to Planned Parenthood.
Subsequently, Planned Parenthood sued Brownback, arguing that the law was unconstitutional because the business no longer had access to Title X funds, and that losing money was tantamount to a violation of its free speech rights.
U.S. District Court J. Thomas Marten ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood in 2011, and blocked the implementation of the Kansas law and granted an injunction.
According to the federal court's majority decision on Tuesday, however, Planned Parenthood's claim that the 2011 law was unconstitutional did not hold up.
"As to the First Amendment claim, we hold that Planned Parenthood cannot establish a likelihood of success because the legislation does not restrict the rights of speech or association of subgrantees and the motives of individual lawmakers are irrelevant," reads the majority opinion, written by Judge Harris Hartz, in part.
"We then vacate the preliminary injunction, reverse, and remand for further proceedings."
Clint Blaes, director of communications for the Office of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, told The Christian Post in an emailed statement that the state is "pleased with the ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals."
"We will continue to defend Kansas law in regards to any further challenges," he added.
Writing for the majority, Hartz argued that the arguments Planned Parenthood used against the 2011 law, including the claim of First Amendment violation, lacked merit.
"Planned Parenthood's theory raises the prospect of every loser in a political battle claiming that enactment of legislation it opposed was motivated by hostility toward the loser's speech. That is essentially what Planned Parenthood argues here," wrote Hartz.
"Planned Parenthood favors abortion rights. At least some influential Kansas lawmakers take a contrary view. If they act on that view to favor legislation opposed by Planned Parenthood, is the statute to be struck down as violating Planned Parenthood's First Amendment rights? If Congress imposes a tax on oil companies, is the tax to be voided because supporters of the tax said they dislike Big Oil or because those impacted by the tax contributed to losing campaigns challenging legislators who later voted for the tax?"
In his dissent, Judge Carlos Lucero argued that the majority opinion ignored judicial precedent on the issues pertaining to Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction.
"Litigants and the public at large are entitled to receive decisions from our court rooted in precedent and based on rigorous analysis of the parties' submissions. Today's decision meets neither test," wrote Lucero.
"Instead, the majority conveniently demenestrates controlling precedent and proceeds on substituted premises. This behavior is particularly unjust because the very rule that the majority would scuttle was conceded by the parties as controlling."
The split decision will likely lead to an appeal of the panel's majority opinion.