Utah Planned Parenthood to challenge defunding order

AP News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2016 3:53 AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah branch of Planned Parenthood is set to ask a federal appeals court Tuesday to reverse a judge's decision that allowed governor to cut off funding to the organization after the release of secretly recorded videos showing out-of-state employees discussing fetal tissue from abortions.

Planned Parenthood contends its employees did nothing wrong, and blocking the money that funds STD and sex education programs would leave thousands of people at risk. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has issued an emergency order keeping the federal money flowing, and Planned Parenthood wants to extend it.

They argue that U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups abused his discretion when he allowed the governor's decision to stand.

Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to stop distributing federal money to the organization last fall, saying he was offended by the callousness of the discussion shown on the videos. He has dismissed assertions that the videos are edited deceptively, pointing to a Planned Parenthood apology for the tone on the recordings and its decision to stop accepting payment for fetal tissue donation.

The footage sparked uproar among Republican leaders around the country. Several states have moved to strip Planned Parenthood of contracts and federal money. The organization has sued in states including Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana. Most court decisions have allowed money to keep flowing, unlike the ruling in Utah.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah sued in September, and filed emails showing state health officials were concerned about defunding the STD and sex education programs that serve teenagers and low-income people.

Waddoups sided with the governor in December, ruling that the government has an interest in avoiding the perception of corruption. While he acknowledged the Utah organization hasn't broken any laws, he said it has associated with other Planned Parenthood entities accused of illegally selling fetal tissue to researchers for profit.

The group says it has never participated in fetal donation programs. Its lawyers contend Herbert decided to end $275,000 in contracts as a political move aimed at appealing to people who oppose abortion.

The blocked federal funding is a small portion of the local organization's $8 million budget. It also receives money through federal contracts, fees from clients, insurance and contributions.

Multiple investigations by Congress and several states have cleared the organization of doing anything illegal. A Texas grand jury has also cleared Planned Parenthood and instead indicted two of the activists that made the undercover videos.