Federal judge says state can cut contract with Planned Parenthood

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge said the state of Utah can end its contract with Planned Parenthood, which is paid for with federal funds.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued the order Dec. 22.

In October, he had blocked an effort by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to defund the Utah affiliate of Planned Parenthood.

Herbert had issued an order in August to cut the funding based on secretly recorded videos released earlier in the year by a California organization, the Center for Medical Progress, that describe Planned Parenthood leaders as selling fetal tissue from abortions for research purposes.

“These are the types of decisions that should be left to elected officials,” Waddoups wrote in his order, “and not managed by the courts.”

The money at issue comes to about $275,000. The programs that had been funded with the money were an after-school sex education program, a program that tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and a network that monitors STDs.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding cannot be used to pay for abortions.

Waddoups, in his order, said the governor’s authority to act on behalf of the entire state overrides the possibility that some residents of Utah may be harmed by the funding cutoff.

It is in the government’s interest to avoid the appearance of corruption, Waddoups said, even though the allegations of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood are “unfounded.” Planned Parenthood officials have long complained that the videos were misleading and edited to distort.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah had sued Herbert in September, saying he violated the organization’s constitutional rights by blocking the funding. The organization’s overall annual budget is about $8 million.

Waddoups, in his ruling, said Planned Parenthood had failed to prove Herbert’s personal opposition to abortion was his main reason for cutting the contracts.

He added the state can cancel contracts just as it can fire a state employee who associates with someone alleged to have broken the law.

Waddoups’ ruling gave hope to pro-life groups elsewhere that governors could act to cut state contracts with Planned Parenthood.

Ohioans for Defunding Abortion, which claims more than 100 Ohio-based pro-life and pro-family organizations and churches, asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential aspirant, to issue an executive order to remove taxpayer funding from abortion providers in the state, Planned Parenthood among them.

“Judge Waddoups’ ruling clarifies that a state has the right to terminate a contract when entities involved allegedly engage in illegal conduct,” said a statement from Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life.