Having already issued an injunction in a suit by Planned Parenthood enjoining enforcement of a Kansas law designed to defund Planned Parenthood, the Kansas district court granted the subsequent request of the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic (DCFP) to intervene and similarly obtain injunctive relief. The court relied heavily on its earlier opinion, but rejected the new argument of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) that the injunction would interfere with federal authority. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri v. Moser, No. 11-2357-JTM, 2011 WL 4971427 (D. Kan. Oct. 18, 2011). Judge Marten, nominated by President Clinton, wrote the opinion of the court.
DCFP filed to intervene in a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri against the KDHE. Planned Parenthood brought the suit earlier this year to challenge a new Kansas law that prevented KDHE from giving Federal Title X funding to private organizations such as Planned Parenthood. In August, Planned Parenthood obtained a temporary injunction against the law. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri v. Brownback, 2011 WL 3250720 (D.Kan., Aug. 1, 2011) (see our posting here). In its motion to intervene, DCFP argued many of the same arguments that Planned Parenthood had advanced. Specifically, DCFP contended the law would violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The defendants raised a number of counter-arguments. According to the court, only a few of the defendants’ arguments were not “resolved by the court’s prior rulings.”
The court rejected the defendants’ contention that an injunction would interfere with the authority of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to oversee Title X funding. The court held that the defendants’ reliance on Astra UNA Inc. v. Santa Clara County, 131 S. Ct. 1342 (2011) was misplaced. That case did not involve claims of preemption under the Supremacy Clause. Enjoining state laws that contradict federal law, even where a federal agency had authority to interpret the federal law, is an appropriate action for a court.
The court turned to whether the DCFP had suffered irreparable injury that would justify an injunction. The clinic had lost not only the Title X funds but also funds from the United Way that were contingent on Title X funds and had also been consequently excluded from the 340B drug pricing program. The clinic had lost patients, and the doctors were continuing to practice without pay. Therefore, the court concluded that DCF was suffering irreparable harm.
The court dismissed the defendants’ claim that an injunction would harm the state. An injunction would merely “restore the status quo” and require the state to continue funding organizations that had previously been receiving funding.
The court agreed with the intervenor that denying an injunction would damage the public interest. Other institutions in the county capable of providing family planning services lacked the capacity of DCFP. Furthermore, DCFP’s low income patients would be unable to travel elsewhere for services.
In granting the injunction, the court did not discuss the merits of DCFP’s Supremacy Clause arguments, as that issue had been evaluated in the prior opinion.
–Nate Vogel, University of Pennsylvania Law School, class of 2011