Federal Ruling OKs Ohio Anti-Abortion Law Blocking Planned Parenthood Funds

Henrietta Strickland
March 14, 2019

More than three years after OH lawmakers passed a law forbidding the state from contracting for health services with any entity that performs or promotes non-therapeutic abortions, a federal court gave the state the OK to put the law into effect.

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles' public affairs manager, Sarah Mitchell said her organization "is proud to endorse Jesse Gabriel for State Assembly".

On Tuesday, by an 11-6 en banc vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that OH can properly cut state funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. This ruling overturns a previous decision by a three-judge panel in the same court that found the law unconstitutional.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote the opinion for an 11-6 majority, saying the judges rejected the contention by two Planned Parenthood affiliates that the OH law imposes an unconstitutional condition on public funding.

The case was closely watched, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed not only by the Trump administration, but also by 14 states saying they had similar laws or prospective laws that would be jeopardized. Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual's free speech, say a Speaker's Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman's abortion.

Eric Murphy, who argued Ohio's original appeal for ending funding, won U.S. Senate approval this month to join the appeals court after being appointed by Trump. To the contrary, it has indicated that there is no such thing. "When will the California legislators learn they can not force people to be a mouthpiece for Planned Parenthood?"

Sutton also found that Ohio's law "will not create an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion" as it does not condition a woman's access to any public health programs on refusing to obtain an abortion. He added that Planned Parenthood has not demonstrated that the law would "limit the number of clinics that offer abortions in the State".

Federal law has long denied funding to organizations for the goal of performing or promoting abortions.

Stock photo of a baby's feet.

The lower courts' opinions cited Supreme Court precedent against placing unconstitutional conditions on the receipt of federal funds, but the appeals court majority said the law did not impose such conditions because private organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, had no guaranteed right to funds for anything, including to perform or advocate abortion.

The United State Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled Tuesday in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio et al. v. Hodges to place a permanent injunction on state funds going to support Planned Parenthood.

"I recently visited our OH health centers where I saw for myself the public health necessity of our Planned Parenthood programs that reduce maternal and infant mortality, cut STI and HIV rates, and provide breast and cervical cancer screenings", Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood says it doesn't know when the ruling will go into effect; that depends on when the Ohio Department of Health issues notifications of funding changes to its grantees.

The Ohio law is one of many in recent years from Republican-led states to restrict abortion providers, as President Donald Trump appoints more conservatives to the federal bench. The rule also requires "clear financial and physical separation between Title X and non-Title X activities".

An anti-abortion marcher carries a sign calling for the organization Planned Parenthood to lose funding, during in the 46th annual March for Life at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019.

A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York August 31, 2015.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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