Politics & Government

Kansas eliminates state funding for abortion alternatives

Gov. Mark Parkinson of Kansas
Gov. Mark Parkinson of Kansas David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT

Catholic bishops and other abortion opponents are criticizing the governor of Kansas and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for stripping funding from a program that provides state money to groups that offer alternatives to abortion.

To meet budget reduction mandates, KDHE eliminated funding for the Sen. Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative.

The Legislature established the fund in 2005 in honor of Clark, a leader of Senate conservatives who was killed in a car accident near his hometown of Oakley.

Lawmakers approved $295,000 for the program in 2009 and $345,000 for 2010, state records show.

The Stan Clark program was one of three projects defunded as KDHE trimmed its spending, said agency spokesman Mike Heideman.

KDHE also eliminated a teen pregnancy prevention program and a program for cleanup of clandestine drug labs, he said.

Gov. Mark Parkinson is empowered to make budget cuts while the Legislature is out of session and approved the KDHE reductions.

However, a statement from Parkinson's office said the responsibility lies with KDHE.

"In most cases, the governor did not identify specific programs or initiatives that he recommended for reductions," the statement said. "The governor trusts cabinet officials to make their reductions based on the priorities for their agencies."

Heideman said the agency was required to come up with a 2 percent reduction — following an earlier 3 percent cut — and debated whether to reduce many programs or drop a few altogether.

Officials decided "it would be a greater detriment" to the agency to make many small cuts, Heideman said.

State records show Catholic Charities had the largest allocation from the pregnancy maintenance fund for 2009, $165,000.Others include:

  • Family Life Services, which operates a pregnancy crisis hotline, $53,000
  • Bethlehem House, a maternity home in El Dorado, $40,000
  • Gerard House, a Wichita maternity home, $29,000
  • Mercy and Truth Ministries, which operates a birth center in Kansas City, $7,000
  • The Kansas Catholic Conference responded to the cut with an open letter to Parkinson, posted on its Web site and signed by Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann and three bishops: Michael Jackels of Wichita, Paul Coakley of Salina and Ronald Gilmore of Dodge City.

    "Complete elimination of this funding suggests that Kansas does not view the plight of pregnant women in need as a matter of even low priority, when in fact we know this not to be true," the letter said. "Ending a program such as this also runs counter to the rhetoric of those on both sides of the abortion question who suggest that reducing incidence of abortion should be a focal point of government efforts."

    The bishops' letter acknowledged that KDHE has been required to make deep cuts from what the Legislature approved, but urged at least partial restoration of the funding.

    The program "can even be said to save the state money, as its funds are used to help prevent premature birth and low birth weight, which are far more costly to the state than funding for the Stan Clark program," the letter said.

    Mark Gietzen, president of the Kansas Coalition for Life, said the cut was particularly galling because in May, Parkinson used his veto power to overrule the Legislature and provide about $300,000 in federal grants to Planned Parenthood.

    "Had he (Parkinson) defunded Planned Parenthood too, I'd let it go, I'd be mute," Gietzen said.

    But he said legislators reflected the will of Kansas voters on both issues.

    "It's an utter sham when you have a governor veto the will of the people and turn around and cut funding for what the people wanted," he said. "That's absolutely outrageous."

    Planned Parenthood offers abortion services at its Overland Park facility, but officials said its grant money is used to provide medical examinations, birth control and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in Wichita and Hays.

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