News Abortion

Court Orders Utah to Reinstate Planned Parenthood Funding

Imani Gandy

The ruling is the latest effort by federal courts to protect the reproductive health-care provider from Republican political attacks.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued an emergency order blocking Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration from discontinuing funding to the state’s Planned Parenthood health-care facilities.

The ruling, which keeps the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah’s (PPAU) funding intact, is the latest effort by federal courts to protect the reproductive health-care provider from Republican political attacks following the release of heavily edited smear videos by David Daleiden and his anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The attack videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing its fetal tissue donation program.

Not one state or federal investigation has turned up wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part.

Herbert was one of a handful of Republican governors who took steps to cut funding to the reproductive health-care organization following the smear campaign that CMP has waged against Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. In August, Herbert instructed the Utah Department of Health to stop administering grants to PPAU in light of “ongoing concerns about the organization” as a result of the attack videos, which have been widely discredited.

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PPAU sued Herbert in September, arguing that the governor’s decision to block federal funds from passing through to the health-care organization was unconstitutional and politically motivated. The federal court initially sided with Planned Parenthood, issuing a temporary restraining order preventing Herbert from discontinuing the funds, but then reversed course, determining that Planned Parenthood had not met its initial burden in proving those claims to justify continuing the earlier order.

After PPAU appealed the district court’s ruling, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction blocking Herbert from cutting off funding while the lawsuit moves forward in court.

PPAU provides reproductive health care to about 46,000 people a year, and does not participate in fetal tissue donation.

“This emergency order is a victory for the thousands of Utah women, men, and their families who rely on Planned Parenthood,” Karrie Galloway, CEO of PPAU, said in a statement. “This ruling confirms what we already know: that cutting programs that help Utahns make responsible decisions and stay healthy is a losing proposition, that playing politics with Utahns’ lives is unacceptable, and that Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has done nothing wrong.”

States including Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana have tried over the past five months to block care at Planned Parenthood only to be stymied by federal courts. In October, a federal court blocked Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s attempt to cut off Planned Parenthood funding in Louisiana. A federal court ordered Alabama to reinstate funding for Planned Parenthood in October.

News Law and Policy

McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights to 13,000 Virginians

Jessica Mason Pieklo

An order issued this week should restore the voting rights to about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people ahead of the November presidential election.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday announced he had restored the voting rights of about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people, responding to a Virginia Supreme Court order that had blocked McAuliffe’s more expansive re-enfranchisement order.

A divided Virginia Supreme Court in July struck down an executive order by McAuliffe that restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people who had lost those rights as a result of a criminal conviction. The court said the Democratic governor lacked the constitutional authority to issue an order broadly restoring voting rights, but would need to instead restore rights individually to each person who had applied.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “It also reflects the clear authority the governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.”

Any person who has been convicted of a felony and is not incarcerated or under court supervision can apply to have their voting rights restored. The voting rights restored this week were for people who had applied before the Virginia Supreme Court blocked McAuliffe’s broader order.

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McAuliffe had promised to personally restore those individual voting rights.

Virginia Republican leaders criticized the move as political and dangerous. House Speaker Bill Howell (R) said in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot that McAuliffe “has restored the rights of some odious criminals.”

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.


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