Constitutional Law

10th Circuit bars Utah governor from withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood

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A federal appeals court has issued an injunction requiring Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to continue funneling $272,000 in federal funding to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 decision on Tuesday that Herbert likely violated Planned Parenthood’s rights to free speech and to provide legal abortions, Reuters reports. How Appealing links to additional coverage and the decision (PDF).

Herbert had ordered the cutoff of the funds after undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue from abortions in medical research. Herbert said during a pro-life event he was offended by the “casualness” and “callousness” of those discussions.

The funds targeted by Herbert were designated for programs targeting sexually transmitted diseases and for sex education programs.

Planned Parenthood had argued Herbert’s action interfered with its First Amendment rights to advocate for legal abortions and associate with the National Planned Parenthood organization. The group also argued Herbert had interfered with a 14th Amendment right to provide facilities for legal abortions.

A federal judge had ruled Planned Parenthood failed to establish that Herbert withheld the funds in retaliation for exercise of its constitutional rights. Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe disagreed in her majority opinion.

“We conclude that a reasonable finder of fact is more likely than not to find that Herbert, a politician and admitted opponent of abortion, viewed the situation that presented itself by release of the … videos as an opportunity to take public action against [Planned Parenthood Association of Utah], deprive it of pass-through federal funding, and potentially weaken the organization and hamper its ability to provide and advocate for abortion services,” Briscoe wrote.

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