July 8, 2011 — Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday seeking to block a provision in the state budget that prevents the state Department of Health and Human Services from distributing federal grants to the organization, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. The grants fund family planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs. The money is not used for abortion services.
The lawsuit alleges that the provision violates the group's First Amendment rights because it is being targeted for supporting abortion rights and providing abortion care. The group also says the state violated the due process and equal protection clauses in the Constitution, as well as the bill of attainder clause, which prohibits lawmakers from inflicting punishment on individuals or groups without a trial (Jarvis, Raleigh News & Observer, 7/8).
The suit states, "Their sole purpose is to single out, vilify, and punish Planned Parenthood as a particularly visible provider and advocate even though, ironically, the eliminated funds have nothing to do with abortion, but will only deprive low-income people of desperately needed health services and teen pregnancy prevention programs."
Janet Colm, CEO of PPCNC, said, "There's no government money that goes to abortion services. So the notion that state and federal money is going to abortion is ridiculous." She added, "They are banning us from contracting with the state because of what we believe, our advocacy, and that's a violation of free speech" (Dalesio, AP/Charlotte Observer, 6/7). Colm said the law marks the first time in the state's history that an individual health care provider has been prohibited from receiving grants from the state.
Republican lawmakers declined to comment on the suit (Raleigh News & Observer, 7/8).