Planned Parenthood Wins Legal Victory in Ohio

by | August 16, 2016

By Darrel Rowland

The state will appeal a federal judge's ruling Friday blocking Ohio lawmakers' attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which will make Rep. Tim Ginter happy.

"This was a thoroughly vetted and screened piece of legislation," said the Salem Republican, who presided over committee hearings on the controversial measure to pull $1.4 million from the agency that provides women's health-care services and abortions.

"We believe the funding would have been spread more evenly across the state and been effective in helping to reduce infant mortality."

But Judge Michael R. Barrett of U.S. District Court in Cincinnati declared that if the law is not permanently blocked, Planned Parenthood "will suffer a continuing irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law." A former Hamilton County GOP chairman appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, Barrett said the law signed in February by Ohio Gov. John Kasich violates the First and Fourteenth amendments.

"The government cannot take away $1.4 million in health grants and contracts that provide critical public health care for thousands of women in Ohio as punishment for Planned Parenthood's providing abortion services," said Jennifer Branch, Planned Parenthood's attorney. "Now that the law is unconstitutional, Ohio must continue to fund the grants and contracts it had with Planned Parenthood."

Michael Gonidakis of Ohio Right to Life called the ruling "an embarrassing decision by a judge who knows that the (federal appeals court) will overturn his opinion."

"The federal judge has no legal authority to tell a state how to spend its resources. I suggest he do us all a favor and step down from the bench and run for the legislature. Then he can legally craft policy in Ohio. Of course he won't, though, because he would never be elected."

Money taken from Planned Parenthood was to be redirected to free clinics and other community health providers across Ohio, especially in rural areas not served by the organization, Ginter said.

John Fortney, spokesman for Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, said, "Unfortunately, abortion is big business to Planned Parenthood. We believe the $1.4 million redirected to community clinics and health organizations for women's health care was and remains the right thing to do."

In conterast, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said, "Thank you to the judge for recognizing that this law is nothing more than pushing the Republican agenda to deny a woman's constitutionally protected right to seek an abortion."

"This is the latest in a series of stinging court defeats for John Kasich and his anti-abortion agenda," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. "State legislators need to stop attacking Planned Parenthood and abortion access because they are going to lose.

"The defunding law in Ohio would have stopped Planned Parenthood from providing HIV tests, cancer screenings, and assistance for poor mothers with newborn infants. This is the most calculated and dishonorable effort to try to stop Planned Parenthood from offering safe and legal abortion."

Barrett accepted Planned Parenthood's argument that by categorically disqualifying entities from state funding because they promote abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote them, the new law imposes unconstitutional conditions on those groups' First Amendment speech and association rights.

He rejected the state's argument that public money going to non-abortion purposes frees other Planned Parenthood funds for abortions.

"To the contrary, the record shows that (Planned Parenthood officials) maintain measures to ensure that none of the funds received from the state or federal government are used, directly or indirectly, to subsidize the promotion of abortion or performance of abortion services," Barrett wrote.

And he also agreed that the organization's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated because the law "prohibits funding for programs which are not related to abortion services based on a recipient's exercise of due process rights to perform abortion services."

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)