News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Rules Oklahoma Can Terminate Planned Parenthood WIC Contract

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A federal judge ruled Planned Parenthood hadn't provided enough proof the decision to terminate its WIC contract was because of its abortion rights advocacy.

A federal judge rejected Planned Parenthood’s attempt to prevent Oklahoma officials from ending its contract with the women’s health organization to provide food vouchers and counseling to poor mothers in the Tulsa area through its contract under the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot ruled Planned Parenthood hadn’t provided sufficient proof its contract was terminated due to the group’s abortion rights advocacy. “Having carefully considered all of the evidence presented by two well-represented parties, the court is persuaded that (Planned Parenthood) has failed to establish that there is a substantial likelihood that it will prevail on the merits of the pivotal issue of whether the termination decision was based on impermissible factors such as the advocacy and other abortion-related activities” Friot wrote held.

State officials gave Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma notice in September that it was terminating the WIC contract due to alleged concerns about how the organization was administering its contract. Planned Parenthood challenged the decision, arguing anti-choice state administrators targeted the contract because of the organization’s support of abortion rights.

According to the Tulsa World News, Planned Parenthood has participated in the Oklahoma Women, Infants and Children program for 18 years and is the largest independent provider of WIC in Tulsa County, providing services to nearly 3,000 women, infants, and children in September 2012. Without this preliminary injunction in place, Planned Parenthood will be forced to stop WIC services on December 31st.

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News Law and Policy

Judge Rules Accused Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooter Not Competent for Trial

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A ruling Wednesday means Robert Lewis Dear Jr. will not stand trial for a November siege at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three dead.

A Colorado judge ruled Wednesday that accused Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. isn’t legally competent to stand trial.

The ruling came after two days of hearings, in which forensic psychologists argued that Dear’s extreme political beliefs—that the federal government was persecuting Christians and targeting him for surveillance—were a delusional disorder sufficient to render Dear legally incompetent to stand trial.

Those beliefs, psychologists argued, made it impossible for Dear to cooperate with his attorneys and to participate in his defense.

Dear argued that his attorneys were ignoring his representation requests and seeking a ruling of legal incompetence despite his objections. Dear said during his competency hearings that he wants to put forward a defense that his actions were legally justified because they prevented the greater evil of Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts.” (Multiple state and federal investigations have not found any wrongdoing with regard to the organization’s fetal tissue donation program.)

Dear faces 179 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder, for the November 27, 2015 attack that left three dead.

As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, Dear will not immediately stand trial for the November siege. He will instead be housed at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo to be treated for a delusional disorder until such time as the court determines Dear is fit to stand trial.

News Law and Policy

Alaska Republicans Block Planned Parenthood From School Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

The measure contains provisions that single out abortion providers, which is likely unconstitutional, as a recent legal analysis indicated.

The Alaska Senate last week approved a bill that bars school districts from contracting with abortion care providers like Planned Parenthood for sex education classes, as part of a broader Republican-led measure.

Backers of SB 89, which passed 12 to 7 in a near party-line vote, say the bill promotes parental control by requiring new school procedures, so parents can pull their children from any school activity, test, or program due to concerns over privacy or sexual content. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), prohibits abortion care providers from furnishing sex education course materials to schools or teaching sex ed to students.

The bill faces a near-certain legal challenge if enacted. The measure contains provisions that single out abortion providers, which is likely unconstitutional, as a recent legal analysis by the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency indicated.

It’s unclear how schools would provide sex ed if SB 89 becomes law. Planned Parenthood officials have said in a statement that it is the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sex ed.

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Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said the senate’s passage of SB 89 was “awful news for sexual health education in Alaska.”

“SB 89 and its even-more-extreme companion legislation SB 191 are unconstitutional restrictions on the education available to communities across the state, and today’s vote didn’t change that,” Cler said in a statement. “Senator Mike Dunleavy is an increasingly desperate demagogue who clearly doesn’t care whether his ideas are based in science, medicine, or even the law.”

The bill represents Dunleavy’s second legislative effort to prohibit abortion care providers from teaching sex ed or providing sexual health materials. A similar bill, SB 191, mandates penalties on teachers, including termination or the loss of their teaching certificates, for using sex ed materials from an abortion care provider. SB 191 is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in the Education Committee.

Speaking in opposition to the legislation on the state senate floor on Friday, minority leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) called the bill a prime example of legislative overreach in a state with a significant sexual health problem.

“Alaska leads the nation in chlamydia rates, we lead the nation in child sex abuse rates … we’re among the highest in teen pregnancy, and many of us as parents want our children to be informed, we want them to know the scientific facts,” Gardner said.

Alaska reported 808 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2011—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Dunleavy, the bill’s sponsor, warned his senate colleagues against supporting the “abortion industry” and characterized Planned Parenthood’s sex ed programs as “indoctrination.”

“Parents want their kids to be educated in the public schools, they don’t want their children indoctrinated in the public schools,” he said.

2014 study in the Journal of School Health, which examined Massachusetts’ Planned Parenthood sex ed programs, showed that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex between the sixth and eighth grades in schools with the programs, compared to those in schools without them.

Sex ed is a growing target for anti-choice state lawmakers. Texas tried and failed in 2013 and 2014 to bar abortion care providers from providing materials for sex ed courses.