Court halts Utah's effort to defund Planned Parenthood

Court halts Utah's effort to defund Planned Parenthood
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A federal appeals court put a temporary injunction late Wednesday on Utah’s effort to block state funds for Planned Parenthood.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision less than a week after a federal judge ruled Gov. Gary Herbert (R) had the authority to deny the women’s healthcare provider $275,000 in state Medicaid contracts.

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“We are thrilled with today’s decision, which will allow our trusted health care providers and educators to continue serving the thousands of Utahns who depend on us as the appeals process proceeds,” said Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, in a press release.

“In the meantime, we will count on our partners at the Utah Department of Health to continue honoring the four contracts slated to end Dec. 31, 2015,” she continued.

Herbert spokesman Jon Cox said in a statement on Wednesday the governor has faith that the appeals process will eventually side with his administration.

“The governor is confident that once the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has the opportunity to look closely at the legal issues in this case, like Judge [Clark] Waddoups, they will reach the same decision and agree that it is contrary to the public’s best interest to remove the governor’s discretion to make contract decisions on behalf of the state,” he said.

The district judge’s decision was a rare instance of a court siding against Planned Parenthood on a funding challenge. Several states have tried to defund the group after a series of undercover videos this year accused the organization of selling fetal tissue for profit. But courts have blocked the moves in states including Louisiana and Alabama. 

In those cases, the states tried to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, but the courts agreed that would violate a federal law allowing Medicaid beneficiaries to receive care at any willing and qualified healthcare provider. 

Utah’s case, though, is smaller in scale, because it applies only to a specific $275,000 in grants. 

Planned Parenthood argued that its constitutional rights were being violated by the governor’s actions, but the lower court rejected that argument. The 10th Circuit could have a different view once it hears the case, though.

Updated at 9:27 a.m.

Peter Sullivan contributed.