A majority of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Ohio can cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, overturning a lower court ruling that blocked the state from stripping about $1.5 million of annual support from the network of clinics.
The case was one of several across the country addressing attempts to cut public dollars to Planned Parenthood and other providers who offer abortions in addition to a range of health care services. The 6th Circuit’s ruling affects six state public health programs in Ohio, but doesn’t touch Medicaid. The Supreme Court in December declined to review a case brought by other Republican-led states seeking to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations that offer abortions. More than 20 states additionally have brought legal challenges over a Trump administration rule cutting tens of millions of dollars in Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
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Four of the 11 Sixth Circuit judges who sided with Ohio in Tuesday’s decision were appointed by President Donald Trump. The judges said Ohio’s law barring state health department funding from going to any provider who offers “non-therapeutic abortions” or advocates for abortion rights, “does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a due process right to perform abortions.”
Eric Murphy, the attorney who argued on Ohio’s behalf for cutting funding to the clinics, has since been appointed by Trump to the court and was confirmed by the Senate in early March.
For several years, Planned Parenthood clinics received public funding to participate in Ohio initiatives targeting sexually transmitted diseases, breast cancer and cervical cancer, teen pregnancy, infant mortality and sexual violence. None of that money was used to fund the organization’s abortion providers — who operate at three out of more than two-dozen clinics in the state. Still, because the state’s Republican leaders were opposed to “using abortion providers as the face of state healthcare programs,” former Gov. John Kasich signed the funding ban in 2016.
In her dissent, Judge Helene White and five of her colleagues argued that the state’s law “would result in an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain non-therapeutic abortions if imposed directly.”
Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said the ruling will “roll back the gains to public health — harming women’s health, children’s health and the health of families across Ohio.” The organization noted that Ohio has high rates of infant mortality among African-Americans as well as high rates of sexually transmitted infections.