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Kansas cutting off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback shakes hands with Senate president Susan Wagle before delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Topeka, Kan., Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any funds through its Medicaid program, Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday in a State of the State address that encouraged state legislators to enshrine such a policy into law.

The Republican governor also spent part of his speech before a joint session of the GOP-dominated Legislature criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama on national security issues. Brownback said Kansas is prepared “to thwart every action” by the Obama administration to move prisoners being held as terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Fort Leavenworth.

In addition, Brownback said he favors tightening limits on local property taxes approved last year and putting them in effect before 2018, as previously planned. He urged lawmakers to design a new formula for funding Kansas’ public schools that includes bonuses for exceptional teachers.

Brownback used his speech to outline a broad legislative agenda on multiple issues and announced his action against Planned Parenthood near the end.

“We have become the shining city on the hill and the champions for life,” Brownback said in remarks prepared for delivery.

Brownback’s 30-minute speech did not mention the issue that could occupy much of the legislative session: closing a projected $190 million budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning in July. His administration planned to release budget proposals Wednesday.

Democrats were quick to note the omission and the unusually strong criticism of a president by a governor in a State of the State address. Veteran Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita, called the speech a “waste of time.”

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said: “That is a classless performance.”

Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said attacking her group is an attempt to divert attention from Brownback’s policy failures. She said Medicaid funds of about $61,000 a year reimburse its clinics for providing health exams, cancer screenings and birth control services for poor women.

“We intend to fight this,” Higgins said.

Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, signed a law upon taking office in 2011 to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning dollars through the state health department. The governor said Tuesday that he directed the department’s secretary to see that “not a single dollar of taxpayer money” goes to the abortion provider through Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the needy.

“The time has come to finish the job,” Brownback said.

Planned Parenthood performs abortions at a clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. It also has a clinic in Wichita that does not terminate pregnancies.

“I am disappointed on behalf of the women who rely on us for health care that the governor has chosen to make them his political scapegoat,” Higgins said.

Brownback has signed multiple laws restricting abortion in…

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