By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - Planned Parenthood sued Utah's governor on Monday for directing state agencies to discontinue their contracts with the women's healthcare provider after an anti-abortion group released secretly recorded videos that caused a political firestorm.
The lawsuit by the Utah chapter of Planned Parenthood against Republican Governor Gary Herbert followed similar suits the organization has filed to challenge its defunding in Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.
The Center for Medical Progress anti-abortion group released the videos in August, saying they showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has said the videos were distorted with deceptive edits and denies it has improperly used fetal tissue from abortions.
Herbert, after the release of the videos, directed state agencies to discontinue contracts with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, cutting off federal funds that pass through the state to the group.
The organization, in a lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday, asked a judge to declare Herbert's actions a violation of its constitutional rights to free speech and due process and said the allegations from the Center for Medical Progress had not been proven.
"Governor Herbert is targeting access to critical, lifesaving health care and education for women, men and teens in Utah - including STD tests for rape survivors," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Herbert spokeswoman Aimee Edwards said in a statement the governor stood by his actions to cut off certain funds to Planned Parenthood.
"He was offended by the actions of Planned Parenthood and the callousness with which they discussed human life," Edwards said.
The controversy over the videos has led some of the most conservative Republicans in the U.S. Congress to oppose any stopgap funding bill that keeps federal money flowing to Planned Parenthood.
A Quinnipiac University national opinion poll released on Monday found 52 percent of respondents opposed to cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, with 41 percent supporting the move.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)