Kansas governor strikes funding for anti-abortion pregnancy centers in state budget

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly used her veto pen Friday to strike GOP-backed portions of the state budget that would set aside funding for anti-abortion programs and ban critical race theory and diversity considerations at universities.

Lawmakers passed a $17.9 billion spending blueprint before adjourning in early April. Kelly signed the 243-page budget Friday, just ahead of the Legislature’s return next week.

“Thanks to our laser-sharp focus on growing the economy, we have a record surplus that we can use to make critical investments in health care, affordable housing, our foster care system, and other essential services everyday Kansans rely on,” Kelly said.

The budget adds $600 million to the state’s rainy day fund, putting the balance at $1.6 billion.

The budget includes $20 million for a Housing Revolving Loan Program to expand available housing, especially in rural Kansas. More than $17 million will go toward increasing foster care placement rates for foster homes and family preservation services, along with funding for evidence-based programing for juveniles. More than $100 million goes to a KanCare program to fund services for low-income Kansans, adds funding for mental health, and sets aside funding for substance use disorder treatment for uninsured Kansans.

The governor used a line item veto on more than a dozen provisions of the budget, including funding for pregnancy crisis centers and restrictions on diversity initiatives.

Vetoes

One provision of the Legislature’s budget would’ve banned universities from asking faculty members, students and contractors about diversity, equity and inclusion, unless the DEI was thought to be relevant to the person’s field.

Another section in the budget banned using DEI as a condition for receiving or renewing licenses with the Behavioral Science Regulatory Board.

The budget stipulated that applicants didn’t need to go through or demonstrate understanding of education and instruction programs for DEI, anti-racism, critical race theory or other related topics — except for equal opportunity protections against discrimination covered by state and federal law.

“This funding restriction limits the ability for these professionals to be trained in potentially lifesaving practices that address the individualized needs of every Kansan,” Kelly said.

The board regulates social workers and psychologists, among other people who typically work with marginalized populations.

Kelly also struck out a program that would divert $2 million in state funding into a program to promote childbirth for unplanned pregnancies.

The program would include resources such as pregnancy support assistance, maternity homes and adoption assistance, with the goal of having pregnant women who are considering abortion think of other options. A nonprofit organization contracted by the state treasurer would provide these services.

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In other states where similar programs have been implemented, a lack of nonprofit regulation has led to financial abuse. Kansas already has a state grant program designed to help low-income women with pregnancies.

Kelly said she didn’t think overseeing a pregnancy program fell within the state treasurer’s jurisdiction.

“This proviso creates a sole source contract for an unknown entity to provide taxpayer funding for largely unregulated pregnancy resource centers,” Kelly said. “This is not an evidence-based approach or even an effective method for preventing unplanned pregnancies.”

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said Republicans in the Legislature would attempt to override the vetoes upon their return, a message he has issued for all of Kelly’s vetoes announced this month.

“The ‘middle of the road’ governor vetoed everything from supporting women in need to a provision preventing the promotion of radical ideology to be advanced with tax payer dollars at our state universities, to even making it harder for Kansas youth to enjoy outdoor activities,” Hawkins said. “Rest assured, the Legislature will examine each of these line items and will take up overrides on several of them next week.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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