Judge Allows Okla. To End WIC Contract With Planned Parenthood
January 3, 2013 — A federal judge on Dec. 24 rejected Planned Parenthood's request to stop the Oklahoma Department of Health from terminating its contract to provide services through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, Reuters reports (Olafson, Reuters, 12/24/12).
The health department ended the contract, which covered WIC services in the Tulsa area, on Sept. 30, but it provided an extension through the end of 2012. WIC provides food vouchers for low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, and infants and children younger than age five.
Planned Parenthood argued that political motives prompted the department to end the contract (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/21/12). Health department officials said they ended the contract because of other issues, including that the organization did not respond to inquiries about contract administration.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said there was insufficient evidence to justify an injunction or prove that politics drove the department's decision.
However, he wrote that Planned Parenthood's "performance deficiencies do not, standing alone, strike the court as problems that would have been fatal to the relationship." He continued, "But a routine, solvable problem can become a justifiable basis for strong action when it is compounded by persistent unresponsiveness in addressing the challenge" (Greene, Tulsa World, 12/25/12).
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Jill June in a statement said, "We are truly disappointed with today's court ruling and the impact it will have on the women and children in the Tulsa area who have relied on Planned Parenthood for [WIC] and the many other services we provide." She added that the group will likely be forced to close one of its clinics and eliminate six full-time staff positions because of the lost contract (Murphy, AP/Huffington Post, 12/24/12).
Diane Clay, spokesperson for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), said, "We're pleased the judge reached the right decision" and "looked at the facts of the case and understood that the decision by the Health Department was based on legitimate business reasons" (Tulsa World, 12/25/12).