As the U.S. Supreme Court considers another major abortion case, Planned Parenthood remains in the line of fire in Kansas. The Brownback administration has accused the organization of selling fetal parts for profit and has sought to cut off its Medicaid funding.
Although numerous state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts has done the same, Gov. Sam Brownback is sticking by his guns. In his State of the State address in January, he called on the Legislature to discontinue Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood.
Laura McQuade, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, says Brownback knows his statements are untrue.
“I assure you that Gov. Brownback knows very well that Planned Parenthood does not traffic in or make profit from fetal body parts. I guarantee you he knows that for a fact, but for Gov. Brownback facts are not of importance," McQuade says.
McQuade says the governor's attacks are a calculated move to divert public attention from the state’s own problems.
“If he talks about highly inflammatory, although highly discredited, stories about Planned Parenthood, he doesn't have to address the dramatic fiscal landscape that he’s created for the state of Kansas,” she says.
In an emailed response, Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for Brownback, said that “Planned Parenthood of America admitted publicly in a letter to Congress that it engaged in the trafficking of baby body parts for financial payment. Kansas is a pro-life state and we will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable among us.”
Hawley was referring to a letter Planned Parenthood Federation of America sent to a congressional committee last summer. The committee had asked for information on the tissue donation programs that a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates have adopted. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is not among them.
In the letter, Planned Parenthood said that a very small number of its affiliates have programs allowing women and families to donate tissue for medical research. The organization says the affiliates charge only for their costs.
The congressional request came after secretly recorded and highly edited videos by an anti-abortion group purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to profit illegally from the sale of fetal tissue.
Last month, a Houston grand jury cleared a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic of selling fetal organs for profit and instead indicted the people who made the videos.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, says fetal dissecting went on at Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic back in 2000, although she doesn't think it's happening now.
“(I’m) not sure if they took it back up again," Culp says. "So I think it’s legitimate for the governor to wonder.”
McQuade, however, says that Planned Parenthood isn't backing down and intends to fight if Kansas lawmakers try to deprive it of funding.
"This really is about attacking communities of color, underserved citizens who need access not only to this healthcare but a must broader landscape rather than a narrower landscape of healthcare," McQuade says.
A Kansas Senate committee is now considering a bill that would make permanent a tiered system that gives priority to state, county and local health departments over organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services. Planned Parenthood has said the system has led to the closure of its clinic in Ellis County.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the tiered system led to the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics in Ellis and Ford counties. The clinic in Ford County was not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Matt Hodapp is a producer at KCUR.