Kansas paid $899,000 bid to try to defund Planned Parenthood
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas paid out-of-state law firms at least $899,000 in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, according to records obtained by KCUR radio.
The records show that the state paid three East Coast law firms to argue its case for more than two years before Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's administration abandoned the effort in April.
The case began after then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback announced his intention to join a national effort to defund the organization after a 2015 video purported to show the group sold fetal tissue for profit. Subsequent investigations discredited the highly edited video, which concerned the national Planned Parenthood organization, not its Kansas affiliate.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment notified Planned Parenthood on May 3, 2016, that it was ending the organization's Medicaid contract. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, which had a few patients from Kansas, sued the next day. The state lost at every stage of the case.
Kansas paid Washington, D.C.,-based Consovoy McCarthy Park more than $396,000 for its work on the case from August 2016 to August 2018, the records show. Another firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, billed Kansas more than $471,000 for work during the same period. And a third firm, Cooper & Kirk, billed nearly $31,000 for a month of work in June 2016.
The law firms' billing rates ranged from $492 an hour to $750 an hour, which is double or triple the average rate of $244 an hour that Kansas firms charge, according to a 2017 survey by the Kansas Bar Association.
Invoices from the firms detailing the services provided were redacted, so it is unclear what work the firms performed, KCUR reported.
Katelyn Radloff, an attorney with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in an email that the records were redacted under the attorney-client privilege exception to the Kansas Open Records Act.
Ashley All, a spokeswoman for Kelly, said in an email that the governor considers the case of waste.
"Multiple courts ruled against the previous administration's effort to remove Planned Parenthood as a KanCare provider," All said. "To continue with this costly litigation would be unwise and out of step with the priorities of Kansas. Governor Kelly is focused on expanding healthcare options to women, not limiting them."