October 16, 2015 — A federal judge on Thursday said Utah must continue sending federal payments to Planned Parenthood, FOX 13 reports (Winslow, FOX 13, 10/15).
Over the summer, the antiabortion-rights group Center for Medical Progress released a series of secretly recorded, misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood. Following the release of the videos, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) ordered the state Department of Health to stop distributing federal funding to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. In response, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit 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.
In September, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order on Herbert's decision through Oct. 15, 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. 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.
Meanwhile, Tom Hudachko, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health, said the contracts that the state aimed to cancel or let expire will continue through the end of the year (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/5).
In the latest ruling, Waddoups said he would extend a temporary restraining order until he issues a written ruling on a request from Planned Parenthood to bar Utah from blocking the funding (FOX 13, 10/15).
In court on Thursday, Planned Parenthood attorneys said Utah health officials tried to stop the governor's office from ending the funding for Planned Parenthood, because doing so would endanger the health of thousands of people.
In emails shared in court, UDOH staff noted that ending one Planned Parenthood contract would mean about 4,400 women ages 15 to 24 would be left without testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea and that 3,725 people would lose treatment for those sexually transmitted infections.
Further, after Herbert's announcement about blocking the funds, Rolfs in an email to Herbert's chief of staff and legal counsel noted, "We really don't have good alternatives for some of the services (Planned Parenthood) is providing." Rolfs also stated that the state could be sued for ending contracts.
Moreover, Peggy Tomsic, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said Herbert knew that the CMP videos were unrelated to the Utah affiliate and that the videos had been edited, but that Herbert took advantage of the videos to target Planned Parenthood out of personal opposition to abortion. She said such action violates of the group's constitutional right to support abortion rights and associate with a national partner to engage in abortion-rights advocacy and provide abortion services (Price, AP/Washington Post, 10/15).
Similarly, Waddoups questioned Herbert's reasons for ending the contracts, saying, "In this case, the governor's decision had nothing to do with the material services that" Planned Parenthood was "provid[ing] to the state."
Meanwhile, Tyler Green, the solicitor general for the Utah attorney general's office, disputed arguments that Herbert based his actions on his personal opposition to abortion rights and said the state can "exercise discretion in its contracts," according to FOX 13 (FOX 13, 10/15).