COLUMBUS — A federal judge blocked an Ohio law aimed at keeping public money from going to Planned Parenthood, saying in a Friday ruling that the group stood to suffer “irreparable injury.”
The state law targets the more than $1.4 million in funding that Planned Parenthood gets through Ohio's health department. That money, which is mostly from the federal government, supports certain education and prevention programs. The Ohio law would bar such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions.
The restrictions, which had been slated to take effect in May, were signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich during his failed presidential bid.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region sued the state, claiming the law violates their constitutional rights by denying them the funds “in retaliation for” providing abortions. The lawsuit names the state's health director as a defendant.
The state's attorneys argue Planned Parenthood is trying to override state policy choices, and no entity has a constitutional right to receive public money.
“Planned Parenthood supplies no basis for disturbing Ohio's legislative judgments about how to spend its public money,” attorneys wrote in a court brief.
Planned Parenthood says Ohio's law would not force any of its 28 health centers in the state to close, but the legislation would deprive thousands of patients’ access to HIV tests, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other prevention and education initiatives.
The group's attorneys say the law is unconstitutional because it requires, as a condition of receiving government funds, that recipients abandon their constitutionally protected rights to free speech and to provide abortion services.
“A long line of precedent confirms that the state may not seek to leverage its control of public funds to coerce funding recipients to relinquish their constitutional rights in this manner,” the organization said in the lawsuit.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, women have a constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood is a national target because of its role as the largest U.S. abortion provider.
Federal law and the laws of most states already prevent public money from paying for abortions except in rare circumstances, but the recent defunding bills prohibit state money for any services by an organization that also provides abortions.
According to Planned Parenthood, politicians in 24 states have either enacted or proposed measures since last July that target the organization with defunding.
In most of the 24 states, the cuts haven't taken effect. Some measures have been blocked by the courts or put on hold over litigation, and a defunding bill in Virginia was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.