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Kansas Defunds Planned Parenthood and Hobby Lobby Oral Arguments

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 28, 2014 3:56 PM

The Tenth Circuit's traditionally conservative stance when it comes to reproductive rights and women's issues is at the forefront this week with two key developments in a case involving Kansas's Title X funding of Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri v. Moser

In 2011, Kansas Governor Brownback signed a law that essentially defunded Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Planned Parenthood sued, asking for injunctive relief challenging the law on Supremacy Clause, First Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. The district court found that Planned Parenthood had established a likelihood of success on the merits on the Supremacy Clause and First Amendment claims, and granted a preliminary injunction. Kansas appealed.

Earlier this week, a divided panel of the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion reversing and remanding the district court's decision. While not a decision on the merits, the opinion has the effect of eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood -- and low income women -- for services including cancer screening and pregnancy testing, among other things, reports the Star Tribune.

Planned Parenthood issued a statement stating, "We are disappointed in today's ruling and we are working with our attorneys to analyze all of our legal options in this case." As we see it, there are two options: Planned Parenthood could petition for a rehearing en banc, or file a petition for writ of certiorari and injunction pending resolution. Since the Tenth Circuit panel was divided, we think petitioning for rehearing en banc may be a safer option before going straight to the Supreme Court.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a group of Obamacare contraception mandate cases -- one of them originating from the Tenth Circuit -- Hobby Lobby. Perhaps one of the most watched cases this term, the oral arguments didn't shed any light on how the Court will decide. What is clear is that the lines are drawn, with four justices on each side, and Justice Kennedy will be the swing vote.

We'll be guessing which way he'll go until June.

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