By Bryan Lowry

Kansas acted improperly when it tried to cut off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood under former Gov. Sam Brownback, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Brownback, who has now taken a position in President Donald Trump's administration, sought to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding for breast exams, birth control and other services in 2016.

Brownback's objection to sending Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood stemmed from the fact that the organization also provides abortion services, but those procedures are not paid for with Medicaid dollars. A federal district judge blocked Kansas from cutting off payments to the women's health care provider in 2016.

Two years later and less than a month after Brownback left office, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the state lacks the authority to prevent Medicaid recipients from obtaining services from Planned Parenthood.

The ruling said states have broad authority to ensure that Medicaid providers are qualified to provide medical services.

"But this power has limits," the ruling said. "States may not terminate providers from their Medicaid program for any reason they see fit, especially when that reason is unrelated to the provider's competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides."

Brandon Hill, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement that the ruling "sends a strong message that state officials should not play politics with Medicaid _ or the health care and wellbeing of Kansans."

Kendall Marr, Gov. Jeff Colyer's spokesman, said in an email that the new governor's team was studying the decision and "considering further legal options. We will continue the fight for life."

Colyer has made his anti-abortion stance a centerpiece of his first few weeks as governor, calling for an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to protect the state's abortion restrictions as the state Supreme Court weighs whether the constitution provides a right to abortion in a separate, ongoing case.

(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)