Appeals court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood clinics

Appeals court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood clinics
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A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Ohio is able to defund Planned Parenthood clinics because they perform abortions.

Eleven judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Ohio law prohibiting state health department funding from going to any provider who offers “non-therapeutic abortions” does not violate the Constitution, “because the affiliates do not have a due process right to perform abortions.”

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The court ruled 11-6 that the ban does not pose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion. Women have a right to an abortion, but Planned Parenthood affiliates do not have a constitutional right to perform abortions, the court said.

“Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the majority. “The State also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities. Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech ... it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion.”

The full panel reversed an injunction against the law, made by a 3 judge panel on the same court.

The ruling is a victory for anti-abortion activists and is one of many cases in recent years brought by conservative states against abortion providers. Republicans have been emboldened by a slate of conservative judges appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE.

Four of the 11 judges on the panel were Trump appointees; all six dissenting judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.

The Ohio law was enacted in 2016 by then-Gov. John Kasich (R). Planned Parenthood argued it would lose out on $1.5 million annually in federal funding.

The law required Ohio to ensure that all funds it receives through six nonabortion-related federal health programs are not used to contract with any entity that performs or promotes “nontherapeutic abortions.”

Planned Parenthood said the funding ban would have also covered programs for mothers’ and infants’ health, HIV counseling and testing and sex education.

“This is a devastating blow for people across Ohio. This law is an attack on health care access for the most at-risk communities in our state, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community," said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. "We will continue to fight to ensure that the 80,000 Ohioans who rely on us for health care every year can continue to get birth control, cancer screenings, and other essential health care at Planned Parenthood health centers."

Planned Parenthood noted that the ruling comes as Ohio politicians are pushing for a "fetal heartbeat" bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.  

In a tweet, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (D-Ohio) condemned the ruling, saying it “rewards a political stunt by state lawmakers that has real consequences for Ohio women and families.”

Judge Helene White, who wrote the original April 2018 ruling that overturned the funding ban, wrote in a dissent that the majority's ruling "gives the government the authority to impose almost any condition it wants on abortion providers so long as the providers continue to perform abortions."

White wrote that Planned Parenthood is the target of the policy "in name only. In practice, the provider is merely a proxy for the woman and her constitutional rights."