August 22, 2011 — U.S. District Judge James Beaty on Friday temporarily blocked a budget provision preventing the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services from distributing state and federal family planning grants to Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, the Raleigh News & Observer reports (Jarvis, Raleigh News & Observer, 8/20). The grants fund family planning, teen pregnancy prevention programs and other preventive health services. The money cannot be used for abortion services.
PPCNC on July 7 filed a lawsuit alleging that the provision targets the group for supporting abortion rights and providing abortion care and, thus, is a violation of the First Amendment. The group also said the state violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution, as well as the bill of attainder clause, which prohibits lawmakers from singling out individuals or groups for punishment without trials (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/11).
In his 35-page ruling, Beaty agreed with PPCNC that the provision "was adopted specifically to penalize Planned Parenthood" for the organization's support of abortion rights, even though the funds do not pay for abortion services. He dismissed the state's argument that the budget is consistent with the General Assembly's policy of "favoring childbirth over abortion" and said the state "has not presented any evidence or even contention to establish how" the ban "is rationally related to a legislative policy of funding childbirth services over abortion services" (Breen, AP/Yahoo News, 8/19).
The judge also asked the state's health secretary to immediately reinstate Planned Parenthood's funding, stating that the court expects the department "to follow all applicable state and federal laws and regulations." If the health department continues to withhold funds from the organization, "further proceedings would be appropriate," Beaty said, adding that Planned Parenthood had an operational contract already in place for this year prior to the legislative session.
Beaty pointed to a similar lawsuit in Kansas where the judge ruled that an "attempt to punish the plaintiff for its support of abortion rights" is a violation of the First and 14th Amendment.
Planned Parenthood CEO Janet Colm said the organization is "deeply grateful that the court has stopped the state from enforcing the ban prohibiting Planned Parenthood from providing much-needed preventative health care to thousands" of North Carolina residents (Raleigh News & Observer, 8/20).
Paige Johnson -- vice president of public affairs for PPCNC --said Beaty's ruling is a "tremendous win" for women. According to Johnson, the lawsuit's next steps depends on whether the state appeals the injunction. If the state doesn’t appeal, Beaty could have a final ruling soon (AP/Yahoo News, 8/19).