Planned Par­ent­hood has its day—again and again—in court

Abor­tion ▶ The group has ramped up its le­gal bat­tle against state fund­ing cuts ▶ “The courts have be­come the ex­ten­sion of the po­lit­i­cal bat­tle”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Politics/Policy -

Six­teen states, all but three Repub­li­can- con­trolled, have passed laws cut­ting fund­ing to the Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ica since last July, when ac­tivists re­leased un­der­cover videos pur­port­ing to show that clin­ics were sell­ing tis­sue ob­tained from aborted fe­tuses. As leg­is­la­tion spreads across the U.S., Planned Par­ent­hood is tak­ing states to court, one by one.

On May 11 the non­profit’s two Ohio af­fil­i­ates sued the state for re­vok­ing more than $1.3 mil­lion in fund­ing un­der a law barring gov­ern­ment agen­cies from con­tract­ing with “any en­tity that per­forms or pro­motes non­ther­a­peu­tic abor­tions.” The Ohio suit comes on the heels of a case filed in Kansas af­ter that state blocked Med­i­caid pay­ments to Planned Par­ent­hood.

The group has filed 15 law­suits since last July chal­leng­ing states’ at­tempts to cut off funds or oth­er­wise re­strict its abil­ity to op­er­ate. “To put this in per­spec­tive, we typ­i­cally file around three to six cases a year,” Dr. Rae­gan Mcdon­ald-mosley, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of Planned Par­ent­hood, said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call an­nounc­ing the Ohio law­suit. The group, which has 58 state af­fil­i­ates that op­er­ate 650 health cen­ters na­tion­ally, gets about 48 per­cent of its rev­enue from public fund­ing.

More than a dozen states have opened in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the videos’ claims; so far no state has found ev­i­dence back­ing them up. In Jan­uary a Texas grand jury in­dicted the film­mak­ers, ac­tivists with the non­profit anti-abor­tion group Cen­ter for Med­i­cal Progress, on crim­i­nal charges of tam­per­ing with gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments. Their cases are still pend­ing; the Cen­ter for Med­i­cal Progress didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Planned Par­ent­hood has faced state re­stric­tions be­fore. In 2011 the group suc­cess­fully sued in Kansas to main­tain ac­cess to fed­eral funds. Yet bud­get cuts tar­get­ing Planned Par­ent­hood clin­ics pushed through by Wis­con­sin Gover­nor Scott Walker that same year re­sulted in the clos­ing of 5 of the 29 clin­ics in that state.

The U.S. Supreme Court is re­view­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of a 2013 Texas law that tight­ened li­cens­ing re­quire­ments for abor­tion providers. “The courts have be­come the ex­ten­sion of the po­lit­i­cal bat­tle over Planned Par­ent­hood,” says Sara Rosenbaum, pro­fes­sor of health law and pol­icy at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity. “The uptick in ju­di­cial bat­tles is a direct re­sult of the uptick in leg­is­la­tion.”

Planned Par­ent­hood’s Ohio suit chal­lenges a law pro­hibit­ing the state from do­ing busi­ness with abor­tion providers. The mea­sure was signed last Fe­bru­ary by Gover­nor John Ka­sich, who was then run­ning for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. As a re­sult, Planned Par­ent­hood clin­ics have been cut off from re­ceiv­ing fed­eral fam­ily plan­ning fund­ing that’s dis­trib­uted by states, known as Ti­tle X grants af­ter the sec­tion of the 1970 law that cre­ated them.

Planned Par­ent­hood of Greater Ohio and Planned Par­ent­hood South­west Ohio Re­gion op­er­ate 28 health-care fa­cil­i­ties, only three of which of­fer abor­tions. The group says it re­lies on Ti­tle X fund­ing to pay for ser­vices such as HIV test­ing and mam­mo­grams, and it claims the Ohio law seeks to pun­ish it fi­nan­cially for of­fer­ing abor­tions, a con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected med­i­cal ser­vice. The Ohio Department of Health de­clined to com­ment.

In Kansas, Planned Par­ent­hood health cen­ters re­ceived letters from

the state Department of Health and En­vi­ron­ment in March in­form­ing them that their par­tic­i­pa­tion in Kan­care, the state’s Med­i­caid pro­gram, would be ter­mi­nated. The department cited a de­layed waste-man­age­ment in­spec­tion and the highly pub­li­cized un­der­cover videos among the rea­sons. “Planned Par­ent­hood has been fully in­formed of the rea­sons for this de­ci­sion,” says Eileen Haw­ley, spokes­woman for Kansas Gover­nor Sam Brown­back.

In its Kansas suit, Planned Par­ent­hood says the on-site waste in­spec­tion was ul­ti­mately com­pleted and that Kansas of­fi­cials found no wrong­do­ing af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims about fe­tal tis­sue sales. The group ar­gues that cut­ting its af­fil­i­ates from Kan­care vi­o­lates a fed­eral law al­low­ing pa­tients to choose any health-care provider that ac­cepts Med­i­caid. Courts have sided with Planned Par­ent­hood in sim­i­lar cases in Ari­zona and In­di­ana.

Planned Par­ent­hood plans to file more law­suits in the com­ing months. It will have no short­age of states to choose from. The same week the Ohio law­suit was filed, Ari­zona and Mis­sis­sippi re­moved Planned Par­ent­hood from their Med­i­caid pro­grams. “Tax­payer dol­lars should not fund abor­tions,” Mis­sis­sippi Gover­nor Phil Bryant tweeted, along with a video of him­self sign­ing the bill. �Claire Sud­dath The bot­tom line Planned Par­ent­hood, which de­pends on public funds, is su­ing to pre­vent Repub­li­can states from cut­ting it off over abor­tion.

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