Court Rules Ohio Can Defund Planned Parenthood

Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in fr
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, 11–6, to allow Ohio to end taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit wrote Ohio’s law to defund the abortion vendor does “not violate a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” that the state “has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion,” and that the law doesn’t impose “undue burden” on a woman’s access to an abortion.

“Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities,” the judge continued. “The State also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities.”

The Ohio law “does not condition a woman’s access to any of these public health programs on refusing to obtain an abortion,” Sutton added. “It makes these programs available to every woman, whether she seeks an abortion or not. Nor, on this record, has there been any showing that the Ohio law will limit the number of clinics that offer abortions in the state.”

Sutton continued that Planned Parenthood’s “vow to keep performing abortions sinks any pre-enforcement action, and any speculation about what would happen if it changed its mind is just that.”

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List praised the appeals court’s decision.

“This ruling is a major victory for pro-life Ohioans and all Americans fighting to keep their own tax dollars from being used to prop up the abortion industry,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president, adding:

The American people have repeatedly expressed their opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which destroys more than 332,000 innocent unborn children a year – funding that could be redirected to life-affirming care providers, such as the growing number of community health alternatives that outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities at least 20 to one nationwide.

In a tweet, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio condemned the ruling, stating its “President and CEO, Iris E. Harvey says, ‘It’s clear that this is a concerted effort to block Ohioans’ from accessing to the full range of reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion”:

A recent Marist poll found that, by a double-digit margin, a majority of all Americans oppose any taxpayer funding of abortion, 54–39 percent.

In 2016, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the bill into law that eliminated state funding from Planned Parenthood. The law, which redirected $1.3 million from Planned Parenthood of Ohio to other health facilities that do not perform abortions, was co-sponsored by Democrat Rep. Bill Patmon and Republican Rep. Margaret Conditt.

As United Press International (UPI) reported, the law was blocked in May 2016 when U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett ruled it was unconstitutional.

In April 2018, a three-judge panel in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling that blocked the Ohio law.

The case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Richard Hodges, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, No. 16–4027, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.


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