- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Planned Parenthood’s winning streak in its funding battle with a half-dozen states ended Tuesday with a federal judge’s ruling that Utah may block federal funds from the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliate as it pursues a lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups voided his temporary restraining order from October that had kept funds flowing to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, saying that the state has the authority to terminate its contract with the affiliate.

“Indeed, these are the types of decisions that should be left to elected officials, and not managed by the courts,” Mr. Waddoups said in his opinion, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The ruling reinstates Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision in August to stop $275,000 in federal funding from coming to Utah and then the Planned Parenthood affiliate, revenue that was used for an after-school sex education program, a network monitoring sexually transmitted diseases, and STD testing.

The Republican governor’s move came in response to a series of undercover videos from the pro-life Center for Medical Progress on Planned Parenthood’s role in procuring fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.

“I appreciate today’s court decision which recognizes my ability to make contract decisions on behalf of the state,” said Mr. Herbert in a statement. “As I have said, the health of all Utahns remains a priority, and I will continue to work with the Utah Department of Health, local health departments, community health centers, non-profit clinics and others to ensure access to these important services.”

The Utah decision represents a break from previous decisions in similar cases in other states. Planned Parenthood has recorded a string of victories this year in its effort to stop officials in a half-dozen states from terminating their contracts with local affiliates.

Last month, Alabama agreed to pay $51,000 in legal fees to Planned Parenthood Southeast to settle a lawsuit over Gov. Robert Bentley’s effort to cancel the state’s Medicaid contract. A federal judge had ruled that the move deprived patients of the provider of their choice, as required under the Medicaid Act.

“To conclude otherwise would not only strip the Medicaid Act’s free-choice-of-provider provision of all meaning, but also would contravene clear congressional intent to give Medicaid beneficiaries the right to receive covered services from any qualified and willing provider,” said U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson in his ruling blocking the state from terminating the contract.

The same argument prevailed in Arkansas and Louisiana after state officials cancelled their contracts with local Planned Parenthood affiliates. In both states, federal judges ordered the states to reinstate funding pending the outcome of lawsuits.

Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement that the judge’s order is “regrettable,” and that attorneys will consider “every possible way to continue the critical health care and education programs that are at risk.”

Planned Parenthood had argued that the governor was acting on the allegations in the video, and that its affiliate had no role in providing fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.

But Mr. Waddoups said that the state has an interest in “avoiding the appearance of corruption,” adding that the harm from cancelling the funding is outweighed by Utah’s right to terminate its contracts at will.

Helene Krasnoff, senior director for litigation and law with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the Associated Press that the Utah ruling is “a bit of an outlier,” given that judges in the other Planned Parenthood lawsuits this year have ruled in the organization’s favor.

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