September 30, 2015 — A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) from ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, Reuters reports (McEntee, Reuters, 9/29).
According to Politico Pro, the court's restraining order against Herbert will remain in place until an Oct. 15 hearing (Pradhan, Politico Pro, 9/30).
Herbert's decision to block federal funds came after the antiabortion-rights group the Center for Medical Progress released several misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program. Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal.
Following the videos' release, Herbert in August ordered the state Department of Health to stop distributing federal funding to the organization. Utah joined several other states that also have taken steps to terminate or block Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts, including Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. Meanwhile, New Hampshire moved to block state funding for the organization.
Planned Parenthood already has filed separate lawsuits to block the Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana decisions. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has warned Alabama and Louisiana that their efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds could violate federal law.
On Monday, Planned Parenthood filed suit against Herbert, asking a federal judge to rule that the governor's orders violate Planned Parenthood's constitutional rights to due process and free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29).
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order against Herbert's decision, ruling that Herbert's actions seem "to have been made on unconstitutional grounds" because there have been no allegations that Planned Parenthood of Utah broke any laws (Politico Pro, 9/30).
Waddoups wrote Planned Parenthood employees were targeted because of its "association with an organization against whom accusations have been made of illegal conduct," adding, "Those accusations are still under investigation and have not been proved."
Further, Waddoups agreed with Planned Parenthood's arguments that cutting off the organization's federal funding would curb women's access to reproductive health care, particularly among low-income women. "The programs carried out by plaintiff target at-risk individuals and the reduction of communicable diseases," he wrote, adding, "These are strong public interests that outweigh the defendants' stated interests in defunding" Planned Parenthood (Reuters, 9/29).