Planned Parenthood appeals ruling allowing Utah to cut off funds

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The Planned Parenthood branch in Utah filed notice Monday that it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling allowing Utah to cut off funds to the organization. 

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Planned Parenthood will appeal the Dec. 22 ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The ruling earlier this month lifted a temporary restraining order, allowing Utah to cut off the funds to Planned Parenthood while a lawsuit proceeds.

It was a rare instance of a judge siding against Planned Parenthood in a case over the healthcare provider's funding.

Following the release of series of undercover videos targeting the organization this year, several states have sought to cut off Planned Parenthood’s government funding. But several federal courts have blocked the moves.

The Utah case is different than those in other states, however, which tried to cut off Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding. Judges blocked that move, saying it violated a federal law that allows Medicaid beneficiaries to receive care from any willing and qualified provider. 

But the Utah case does not involve Medicaid funds. There the dispute is over $275,000 in federal grants to Planned Parenthood for sexual education and disease testing that are administered by the state.

Planned Parenthood argued that its constitutional rights were being violated by Gov. Gary Herbert’s (R) move to cut off the grants in the wake of the videos. 

It argued that Utah’s move violated the Equal Protection Clause by singling out Planned Parenthood. But Judge Clark Waddoups wrote on Dec. 22 that Planned Parenthood was not being treated differently than any other organization that “associates with an entity allegedly engaged in illegal conduct.”

Referring to the videos, which accused Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, Waddoups wrote, “While the allegations may prove to be unfounded, they are nevertheless material at this time.”

State investigations across the country have so far found no evidence that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit. 

The judge also rejected Planned Parenthood’s argument that it was being improperly punished for engaging in protected activity, namely providing abortions. 

Waddoups wrote that the evidence indicates that Herbert was cutting off the grants in reaction to the videos, not simply because Planned Parenthood provides abortions. 

The 10th Circuit could overturn Waddoups’s ruling, though, if Planned Parenthood wins its new appeal.