Utah Ordered to Fund Planned Parenthood

     (CN) – Federal dollars may continue to flow to Planned Parenthood of Utah, the 10th Circuit ruled on Tuesday, voiding Gov. Gary Herbert’s order to block $275,000 in contracts after the release of purported undercover videos by a California anti-abortion group.
     Planned Parenthood Association of Utah sued Gov. Gary Herbert and the executive director of the state’s health department, Dr. Joseph Miner, in 2015 in Federal Court.
     The nonprofit claimed that, “without warning and having expressed no prior concerns about PPAU or the services it provides,” Herbert directed state agencies to stop acting as an intermediary for federal grant money going to the organization for non-abortion related services “based solely on unproven allegations by an anti-abortion group of misconduct in other states.”
     The ban followed the august 2015 release by the Center for Medical Progress of secretly-recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials in Texas and other states describing how they provided fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.
     Herbert joined Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and 300 attendees at a protest in the Utah State Capitol the same month and prodded state lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood.
     At the protest, Herbert said, “I’m here today to add my voice to yours and speak out on the sanctity of life.”
     He added, “The thing I find most appalling is the casualness, the callousness … the lack of respect, the lack of sensitivity to the unborn.”
     A federal judge barred Herbert, who allegedly knew Planned Parenthood’s Utah chapter did not use federal funding for abortions, from defunding the organization amid heated talks on Capitol Hill.
     “As Gov. Herbert himself acknowledged in his directive, no federal funding to PPAU, whether directly from the federal government or through state agencies such as UDOH, is used to provide abortions,” Planned Parenthood claimed in the 18-page lawsuit.
     Utah was the fifth state to defund Planned Parenthood following Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana – which revoked a contract with Planned Parenthood using state Medicaid dollars – and New Hampshire, which blocked $650,000 in state taxpayer funding.
     Herbert moved to cut off $275,000 in contracts, which fund sexually transmitted disease and sex education programs: a fraction of the organization’s $8 million budget.
     Planned Parenthood of Utah claimed the ban violated of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
     On Tuesday in a 2-1 decision, the 10th Circuit reversed a lower court decision and granted the organization a preliminary injunction.
     Circuit Judge Mary Briscoe said Herbert likely issued the directive to “punish” the organization.
     “In particular, we conclude that a reasonable finder of fact is more likely than not to find that Herbert, a politician and admitted opponent of abortion, viewed the situation that presented itself by release of the CMP videos as an opportunity to take public action against PPAU [Planned Parenthood of Utah], deprive it of pass-through federal funding, and potentially weaken the organization and hamper its ability to provide and advocate for abortion services,” the 57-page ruling states.
     Briscoe also noted “serious potential harm” in the ban.
     “As PPAU notes in its motion, the directive ‘threatens to increase unwanted pregnancies among the groups [served by the programs at issue], as well as [to] increas[e] the risk that these patients will contract and/or transmit potentially life-threatening STDs,'” Briscoe wrote. “This serious potential harm, particularly when combined with the potential violation of PPAU’s constitutional rights, is sufficient to outweigh Herbert’s interest in exercising his discretion to terminate the contracts at issue with PPAU, particularly given that the exercise of that discretion may violate PPAU’s constitutional rights.”
     Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach in dissent said a district court did not abuse its discretion and that the organization did not show a likelihood of success in the action.
     Planned Parenthood of Utah was “elated” with the ruling, said Director Karrie Galloway.
     “Our doors are open today and they will be tomorrow – no matter what,” Galloway said. “This is a major victory for our patients, and for health care providers in Utah who want to provide services to Utahns free of discrimination.”
     “We have won,” Galloway added. “At this point, as far as we are concerned, the lawsuit is over.”
     Herbert did not share in the organization’s enthusiasm.
     “He believes that it is in the public’s best interest to allow state officials to make contract decisions on behalf of the state, rather than a distant federal court,” spokesman John Cox said. “The governor will work with the attorney general to review the court’s decision and determine the best course of action moving forward.”

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