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Appeals Court Will Step Back Into Kasich’s War Against Planned Parenthood

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The full panel of Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judges will consider the constitutionality of an Ohio law that tries to strip Planned Parenthood of state funding.

A decision blocking Ohio officials from defunding Planned Parenthood was set aside by a federal appeals court Thursday as it announced it would reconsider the case. 

In Aprila three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declared unconstitutional a decision by the Gov. John Kasich (R) administration to cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) appealed that decision to the full 16-member court. 

The full court on Thursday granted DeWine’s request and stated it would schedule the case for oral argument “as soon as possible.”

Kasich in February 2016 signed a measure that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of $1.3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds and diverted that money to health-care clinics that don’t offer abortion services and don’t contract with organizations that provide the medical procedure. The Republican-backed measure attempts to bar Planned Parenthood from providing health care and educational services through six federal health programs, none of which are related to abortion care. 

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The bill aims to block Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds from the Violence Against Women Act; the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative; the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act; the Infertility Prevention Project; the Personal Responsibility Education Program, as well as programs aimed at reducing infant mortality. 

Planned Parenthood officials filed a lawsuit and sought a preliminary injunction to block the law shortly after it was enacted, arguing the law infringed on its First Amendment rights by denying state and federal funds “because of–and in retaliation for–their constitutionally protected advocacy for abortion rights and affiliation with other organizations that also advocate for abortion rights and/or provide abortion services.” Both the lower court and the panel of Sixth Circuit judges agreed and sided with Planned Parenthood. 

Thursday’s decision by the entire panel of judges sets aside those rulings.

“Appealing this unanimous decision is outrageous,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement. 

“Mike DeWine would rather Ohioans not have access to the cancer screenings and HIV testing that keeps them healthy than allow Planned Parenthood to help them. He is fighting against funding for rape prevention programs. Mike DeWine is putting funds at risk that combat Ohio’s infant mortality crisis. He’s willing to do all of this just to further his anti-abortion crusade and to appeal to conservative Republican voters. Think about that.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals hears cases from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. President Trump has had four nominees confirmed to the Sixth Circuit. Two Sixth Circuit nominations are pending, including that of Chad Readler. Readler serves in the Department of Justice and is one of the Trump administration’s most strident legal defenders, arguing in favor of the administration’s Muslim travel ban, its attacks on sanctuary cities, and its most recent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act in court. 

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