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Federal judge issues order halting Utah's effort to terminate Planned Parenthood funding

September 12, 2016 — A federal judge on Sunday issued a preliminary injunction that prevents Utah from cutting funding from the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) for the reasons Utah's officials gave for the termination of funding, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The order will remain in effect until the lawsuit over Utah's effort to cut the organization's funding concludes (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/8). According to Deseret News, the state's contracts with Planned Parenthood expire in September, but state officials said they would renew them on a short-term basis until the lawsuit is resolved (Romboy, Deseret News, 9/7).

Background

Following last year's release of manipulated videos targeting Planned Parenthood, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) ordered the state Department of Health to stop distributing federal funding to PPAU for sexuality education and testing for sexually transmitted infections. In response, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Herbert, arguing that the governor's orders violate Planned Parenthood's constitutional rights to due process and free speech.

In September 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order on Herbert's decision through Oct. 15, 2015. However, in December 2015, Waddoups reversed his prior decision and ruled that Utah could end $275,000 in federal funding to Planned Parenthood while the organization continues its lawsuit.

Later that month, Planned Parenthood asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to review Waddoups' ruling. The appeals court issued an emergency hold barring Herbert from blocking the funding. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit heard arguments in the case in March.

In July, the appeals court panel in a 2-1 vote ruled that the state's effort to defund PPAU could have violated the organization's free speech rights and its right to establish clinics for women seeking abortion care. The decision required Waddoups to order a preliminary injunction blocking the state's defunding effort while PPAU seeks a permanent injunction (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/13).

Waddoups recused himself from the lawsuit. The court reassigned the case to U.S. District Judge Dee Benson.

Order details

In the order issued Sunday, Benson stated that Utah officials may not cut PPUA's funding on "impermissible constitutional grounds." Such grounds include the organization's advocacy for abortion rights or provision of abortion care; association with other groups that advocate for abortion rights; and affiliation with the national Planned Parenthood organization.

While Benson's order does not mandate that the state continue, renew or issue contracts with Planned Parenthood, it does require that the state provide the organization with a legitimate reason for ending or declining to renew or issue a contract 30 days before doing so (Deseret News, 9/7).