Judge rejects Ohio law to cut Planned Parenthood funds over abortion
(Reuters) – A judge on Friday prevented Ohio from cutting federal taxpayer funding from 28 Planned Parenthood clinics, setting back the governor’s hopes of stopping the women’s health services group from providing abortions. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett said the law was unconstitutional and would cause “irreparable injury” to Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Southwest Ohio and their patients.
The Ohio law signed in February by Republican Governor and former presidential hopeful John Kasich stripped $1.3 million from any healthcare organization that includes abortions among its services. The law was scheduled to go into effect in May before Judge Barrett temporarily halted it on May 23. Ohio already has a law barring the use of state funding for abortions. Planned Parenthood, which sued the state to stop the law from coming into effect, said it would have stripped federal funds from all their health services, such as pap smears and cancer screenings, because a few clinics provided abortions. The organization has said that attempts to cut funding are illegal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that abortion was legal in the United States but anti-abortion activists have fought for years to alter state laws. Judge Barrett said in his ruling that the law violated the organizations first amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. “Based on this evidence in the record, the Court finds the irreparable injury is continuing and there is a lack of an adequate remedy at law because monetary damages could not compensate Plaintiffs for this injury,” Barrett wrote. Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said in a statement that the state would appeal the ruling. Iris Harvey, President of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, welcomed the ruling. She said the law “would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care.” “Politicians have no business blocking patients from the care they need – and today the court stopped them in their tracks,” she said. The lawsuit was one of a number of legal actions filed by Planned Parenthood since mid-2015. It went to court after two anti-abortion activists released videos purported to show employees of the group negotiating prices for aborted fetal tissue. In January, the activists were indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of tampering with a government record and Planned Parenthood was cleared of wrongdoing. Then on July 26, prosecutors dropped charges against the activists. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; editing by Grant McCool)