While the U.S. Senate gave Planned Parenthood a temporary reprieve from slashed funding on Wednesday, Sept. 30—passing a bill by 78-20 which would keep federal agencies funded at current levels and which does not include funding cuts to Planned Parenthood—in Utah, the political battle over Planned Parenthood and its funding continues. There have been rallies in support of the embattled organization with smaller counter-rallies occurring at the same time, followed by Gov. Herbert cutting off contracts and funding totaling $225,000. In the most recent skirmish on Monday, Sept. 28, Planned Parenthood of Utah filed a lawsuit against Herbert. On Tuesday, the day before the funding cuts were scheduled to take place, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups sided with Planned Parenthood and blocked Herbert’s actions, issuing a temporary restraining order. The restraining order ensures that funding to Planned Parenthood will continue for the time being.
Judge Waddoups heard arguments about the case in court on Tuesday morning. Peggy Tomsic, Planned Parenthood’s legal representative, argued that Planned Parenthood had received the funding for over 20 years without any missteps. Judge Waddoups granted Planned Parenthood of Utah’s request for a restraining order, temporarily halting the state from defunding the organization.
“Governor Herbert has done this,” Tomsic said in court, “and his directive has been implemented to carry out his own personal and political agenda to punish Planned Parenthood for exercising its constitutional rights.”
Tyler Green, the assistant Utah Attorney General disagreed with Judge Waddoups assessment. “The concern was the national Planned Parenthood organization was doing something illegal. It was selling fetal tissue.”
Judge Waddoups replied, “He is penalizing them for their association with a national organization. Why is that not a constitutional violation? There’s a reasonable inference this action was taken for political reasons and not a legitimate state reason.”
Tomsic told the Independent “The actions that Herbert took directed the Utah department of Health to terminate contracts and cut off funding for health services and education”
“Planned parenthood of Utah filed a lawsuit against Gov Herbert and the head of the Utah health department for violating Planned Parenthood’s constitutional rights,” Tomsic said. “Among them, the equal protection clause, the First Amendment, and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
At a news conference on Monday, Karrie Galloway, the director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, stated, “We aren’t going to allow the governor to play politics with our health and our lives. While we have always known that playing politics with the lives of Utahns is wrong and shortsighted, we have learned that Governor Herbert’s actions are also unconstitutional. As such … we are taking legal action.”
“But let me be clear,” Galloway continued, “Planned Parenthood’s doors are open today, they will be open tomorrow, and we are here for Utahns — no matter what.”
Representatives from the Utah chapter of Planned Parenthood released an official statement last week that posited, “This outrageous attack is motivated by recent videos released by extremist anti-abortion activists making completely false claims. The fraudulent group opposes Planned Parenthood’s mission and services and is intent on cutting millions of women and their families off from care at Planned Parenthood … It’s disappointing that the governor and his advisors were fooled into doing just that: cutting off funding for education programs and STI testing. The governor’s order jeopardizes services that reduce unintended pregnancy and that keep Utahans safe and healthy. None of these funds go towards providing abortion services, per state and federal law.”
As previously reported by the Independent numerous Planned Parenthood programs receive funding through the state. For the 2015 fiscal year, state funding included over $115,000 for education programs teaching abstinence and personal responsibility, $75,000 for STD testing, $30,000 for the STD Surveillance network, and roughly $1,400 that is budgeted for victims’ reparation payments. The funds that go to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah are used to provide sex education programs, gonorrhea testing, improvements in STD reporting and chlamydia treatment. The $57,700 that was being distributed to Planned Parenthood centers across the state to provide abstinence lessons in high schools would have been terminated with the governors order.
Governor Herbert’s spokesperson Aimee Edwards, issued a statement in response to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit:
“The governor stands by his actions and looks forward to responding to Planned Parenthood’s claims in court. Today’s procedural action does not deter Governor Herbert’s resolve to carry out his directive.”
The Independent will continue to follow this story as it develops.