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States Attack Planned Parenthood on Funding, Regs

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The battle over funding Planned Parenthood created a media feeding frenzy in several states this summer. The angry buzz boils down to a few key questions about states' power to cut funding and impose prohibitive regulations.

Subhead: 
The battle over funding Planned Parenthood created a media feeding frenzy in several states this summer. The angry buzz boils down to a few key questions about states' power to cut funding and impose prohibitive regulations.



(WOMENSENEWS)--When the U.S. Senate blocked a House bill to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood in February, the fight still continued in a number of state legislatures and courts.

Several states--including Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana and Arizona—have spent months wrangling over whether federal money can fund the country's largest provider of reproductive health services.

The Hyde Amendment has blocked federal money from funding Planned Parenthood's abortion services since 1976, but anti-choice lawmakers argue that federal money should have no association with abortion services whatsoever. So the funding fight is a proxy battle over abortion rights.

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A media survey of lawsuit coverage reveals two key legal questions behind much of the legal chatter.

No. 1: Can state lawmakers use the budgeting process to block federal contributions to Planned Parenthood, which receives about one-third of all federal family-planning appropriations?

No. 2: Can lawmakers subject Planned Parenthood clinics to prohibitive regulations through so-called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers)?

The legal battle lines over these questions could be washed away if anti-choicepoliticians persuade the 12-member deficit-slashing "super committee" of House and Senate members to give states more freedom in how they use Medicaid money. If that happens, states controlled by anti-choice legislators would get a lump payment each year and could choose to allocate funding away from Planned Parenthood.

For now, however, here is how these two legal strategies--sometimes in combination--are playing out in a few states.

Kansas

Lawmakers here are employing both tactics; imposing more regulations on family planning providers and trying to delete funding for Planned Parenthood in the budget process.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a state budget that eliminated Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri as a recipient of Title X, a federal program that designates funds specifically for family planning services, in late June.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri fought back with a lawsuit saying it was unconstitutional for the state to determine recipient qualifications for a federal program and for the state to deny their right to free speech in advocating for abortion rights.

On Aug. 31, after months of appeals and injunctions, Kansas officials agreed to follow U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten's order to immediately fund the two agencies with federal money on a quarterly (four times a year) schedule, as it did before Brownback stripped the funding.  On Sept. 7, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri told the Associated Press they had received part of the funds they were entitled to from the state, but the state plans to appeal the decision.

Kansas legislators also saw TRAP laws blocked in court.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal advocacy group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of the three abortion-providing clinics in the state.  The clinic was denied its operating license because it failed to meet new regulations. The Center for Reproductive Rights argued that providers were not given enough time to comply with the regulations and that they were vague, complicated and unnecessary.

A Planned Parenthood affiliate was the only clinic granted a license.  On Aug. 1, a federal judge temporarily blocked the regulations that would have closed the other two providers down, but the lawsuit continues.

An attorney from the Center for Reproductive Rights offered on July 7 to drop the case if the state Department of Health and Environment adjusted the rules to be more realistic for abortion providers.  Whether the anti-choice groups will accept the offer remains to be seen.

Indiana

Lawmakers' effort here to limit Medicaid funds from reaching Planned Parenthood could be the most blockbuster battle yet, drawing objections from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama administration.  The federal government also recently intervened when the state of New Hampshire attacked Planned Parenthood funding.

The Indiana fight was a particularly targeted attack on Planned Parenthood because the organization is the lone recipient of the state's Medicaid family-planning funds. (The state does not accept Title X funds that would fund other abortion providers.)

Federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that the state could not adjust or change the rules about who qualifies for a federally mandated program like Medicaid.  But the battle continues: Indiana's case was scheduled at an appeals court in Chicago on Sept. 13, but was postponed to December.

North Carolina

Lawmakers here passed a budget May 4 that, for the first and only time, explicitly banned Planned Parenthood of North Carolina from all federal funding.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit requesting that federal Judge James A. Beaty Jr. stop the defunding policy.  On Aug. 19, he issued a preliminary injunction on the law and required the state to continue public funding for Planned Parenthood throughout the trial.

Beaty cited rulings from similar lawsuits in Kansas and Illinois and as of Aug. 25, North Carolina lawmakers were considering appealing the decision for continued funding.  The state has 30 days after the Aug. 19 ruling to decide if they will appeal it, said Melissa Reed, vice president for public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems, in a phone interview with Women's eNews. The court date for the lawsuit trial has not yet been set.    

Arizona

On the budgetary front, lawmakers here banned public funding for any program that trains medical students how to perform abortions. They also changed tax laws to prevent donations to any organization that supports, funds or is affiliated with abortions or abortion providers from being tax-deductible.

On the regulatory front, in August, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided in favor of the state in the case Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Horne, allowing the state to enforce 2009 regulations that severely restrict access to abortions and family clinics.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona ceased providing medically induced abortions--or fetal terminations via oral pills--at three locations and closed one affiliate location due to the regulations.

For now, Arizona Planned Parenthood is following the example of affiliates in New Jersey, which lost all of their state funding for 2011 and closed clinics. They have been compiling data on the negative public health effects of those closures and do not plan to appeal the decision, though this too could change.

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Marley Gibbons is an editorial intern at Women's eNews.

For more information:

>"States Enact Record Number of Abortion Restrictions in First Half of 2011," Guttmacher Institute:
http://www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2011/07/13/index.html

2011 at the Midpoint: The State of Reproductive Rights" Center for Reproductive Rights:
http://reproductiverights.org/en/feature/2011-at-the-midpoint-the-state-of-reproductive-rights

Planned Parenthood vs. The States: The Legal Battles Rage," Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/planned-parenthood-defunding_n_935134.html?ref=email_share

Planned Parenthood vs. The States: The Legal Battles Rage," Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/planned-parenthood-defunding_n_935134.html?ref=email_share

The Consequence, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of New Jersey NJPP Consequences, April 2011:
http://www.plannedparenthoodnj.org/library/consequences