States' Attempts To Defund Planned Parenthood Stymied by Courts, Obama Administration

May 8, 2012 — The Obama administration and federal courts have stopped several conservative-led state efforts to block funding to Planned Parenthood since 2010, the Washington Times reports. The administration has stated that it will cut off states' Medicaid funding if they refuse to provide funding for family planning and other preventive health services to the organization. In the case of New Hampshire, the administration opted to directly award a grant to Planned Parenthood after state officials blocked the funding. Each federal court that has ruled on the issue to date has sided with Planned Parenthood.

According to the Times, the state-level efforts intensified after the House failed to defund the organization in a budget deal last year. State lawmakers have passed bills that would cut $61.3 million from the group if they are allowed to go into effect, according to data from the Susan B. Anthony List.

Planned Parenthood's opponents say they are ready for a "long, state-by-state fight against the administration," according to the Times. The next fight could be in Arizona, according to the Times, after the governor on Friday signed a bill (HB 2800) that prohibits state or local governments from providing public funds to any organization that provides abortion care. Lawmakers in Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio are considering similar bills, while cases are pending before appeals courts in Indiana, Kansas and Texas after district courts ruled against the states.

Under federal law, states cannot withhold Medicaid funds from qualified health care providers, and district court judges in the Indiana and Texas cases ruled that the provision applies to Planned Parenthood (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Times, 5/7).

Helene Krasnoff, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said of the Texas law, "It bars [funding recipients] from having any relationship with any provider of abortion services." She said, "The government can tell an entity what it can do with government funds," adding, "The government can set the rule for its own programs. But it can't disqualify you from the program based on constitutionally protected conduct that you do outside that government program" (Goodwyn, "All Things Considered," NPR, 5/7).

Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women's Law Center, said federal law on cases involving Medicaid funding is clear. "It's something that some people are trying to make a political argument about, but under current law, it's hooey," Waxman said (Washington Times, 5/7).