Image: Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback speaks to supporters after winning re-election in the U.S. midterm elections in Topeka, Kansas, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
(Reuters) – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has ordered state officials to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and its affiliates through the state Medicaid program, a move the organization said on Wednesday it would challenge in court.
Brownback, a Republican, said in his state of the state address on Tuesday that he would direct the state health secretary to ensure that no taxpayer money go to Planned Parenthood, which he said trafficked in baby body parts.
“No longer will we send the money of hard-working Kansans to fund an industry that disrespects life and violates the moral conscience of our people,” Brownback said in a statement.
The governor’s statement was an apparent reference to videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group that activists said showed that Planned Parenthood officials in some states had discussed the sale of aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has denied any illegal payments, calling the videos distortions of the issue of fetal-tissue donations. The organization has said it has received only reimbursements for its costs, which are legal under U.S. law.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it would issue a termination letter to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Laura McQuade, president and chief executive of the Kansas and Mid-Missouri Planned Parenthood, said the planned termination would result in a legal battle.
“Kansans and their health care providers are not Mr. Brownback’s punching bag and we will fight back,” McQuade said.
Federal funds cannot be used for abortions, but Planned Parenthood also provides Medicaid covered services such as contraception, cancer screening and other care.
Several states have sought to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood following the release of the videos. Courts have blocked some of those attempts at least temporarily in Utah, Louisiana, Alabama and other states.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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