An attempt by Utah’s governor to defund Planned Parenthood has been smacked down by a federal appeals court who decided that the order was most likely a political move to punish the organization and ordered the state to continue funding the organization.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver also decided on Tuesday that it is highly probable that the governor’s order violated the constitutional rights of the group.
Following the release of the now debunked “baby parts” video, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, stripping vital financial support away from sexually transmitted disease and sex education programs.
The head of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah praised the ruling as a victory for the patients who depend on the services provided by the organization:
A spokesman for the governor said he was disappointed by the ruling and believes that contract decisions should be left up to the state. Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging Herbert’s defunding order will now go back to a lower court. The state has not decided what legal action they will take next, but one option would be to ask the full 10th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s decision.
Herbert had no comment on the finding by two appeals court judges that he most likely used the controversy as an opportunity to attack the group politically because they provide abortion services.
Attorneys for the Utah branch of Planned parenthood argued that they have never participated in fetal donation programs. They also provided emails from state health officials expressing their concern that defunding the group would negatively impact the thousands of teenagers and low-income people who depend on the organization’s services.
Lawyers for the state argue that the governor legally has every right to right to end contracts and adds that Planned Parenthood was still embroiled in suspicion when Herbert issued his order blocking the organization’s funding.
Several states have tried to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the fake “baby parts” videos. In states such as Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana, the organization has resorted to fighting these attempts to strip away their funding in court.
Most states have sided with Planned Parenthood and ruled that the money must keep flowing, but U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups in Utah allowed Herbert to defund the group because he said the state has an interest in avoiding the perception of corruption. Waddoups conceded that the organization has not broken any laws, but said they had associated with other Planned Parenthood entities accused of “selling baby parts.”
Utah’s branch of Planned Parenthood has an $8 million budget and the contracts blocked by Governor Herbert were worth $275,000.
Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing in multiple investigations by congress and several states. The organization was also cleared by a Texas grand jury who chose to indict two of the makers of the heavily doctored videos instead.