Judge sides with Utah governor in Planned Parenthood funding battle

Judge sides with Utah governor in Planned Parenthood funding battle

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has the authority to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, dealing a major legal blow to the organization as it tries to preserve its funding in multiple states this year.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups upheld the governor’s move to block about $275,000 from Planned Parenthood’s sexual education programs. The decision is a reversal from weeks earlier, when Waddoups had required the state to continue the funding through the end of the year.

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"Indeed, these are the types of decisions that should be left to elected officials," Waddoups wrote in a statement reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, "and not managed by the courts." 

The funding is a fraction of Planned Parenthood’s $8 million budget in Utah, though organization officials have maintained that the funding is crucial and that Herbert is trying to advance his own political agenda.

None of the money is legally allowed to go toward abortion services under federal and state law.

Herbert announced this summer that he would be ending state contracts with Planned Parenthood after anti-abortion activists released undercover video footage that they say proves the organization was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations.

Planned Parenthood has denied all claims from the videos, which are now the subject of five congressional probes. The federal watchdog for the Department of Health & Human Services on Tuesday announced an investigation into fetal tissue sales on Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood has sued Utah along with several other states that have moved to restrict funding in the wake of the videos. No other judge has ruled against Planned Parenthood.