Ohio law — similar to TN ‘defunding Planned Parenthood’ bill — voided by appeals court

A federal appeals court has ruled Ohio’s efforts to cut off Planned Parenthood from receiving funds for preventive health programs violate the organization’s First Amendment rights, according to the Washington Post. And the News Sentinel’s Jamie Satterfield observes the Ohio law is similar to one recently approved by the Tennessee legislature.

From the Post report:

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit struck down a 2016 law that banned Ohio abortion providers or abortion rights promoters from receiving funds through six federal health programs. The programs are intended to help low-income patients receive prevention services for sexually transmitted diseases, breast and cervical cancer, infertility and HIV/AIDS, among other things.

States have been allowed to refuse to subsidize abortions for years. But the problem with refusing to give preventive health funds to Planned Parenthood on those grounds, the court ruled, is that those services are completely unrelated to abortions. Therefore, the court found, Ohio has unfairly punished Planned Parenthood compared to other grant recipients simply because the health provider advocates for abortion rights “on its own time and dime.”

The panel ruled unanimously that this is a violation of Planned Parenthood’s freedom of speech and creates an “unconstitutional condition.” Judge Helene N. White, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that the government “may not require the surrender of constitutional rights as a condition of participating in an unrelated government program.”

Joining her were Judge Eugene E. Siler Jr., a George H.W. Bush appointee, and Judge Eric L. Clay, a Bill Clinton appointee.

“Ohio’s important interests in preferring childbirth to abortion, promoting life, and not subsidizing abortions have only the most tenuous relationship to” the 2016 law, White wrote. “Precluding Plaintiffs from funding under the six federal preventive-health programs that have nothing to do with abortion does little to promote these interests.”

From the News Sentinel:

Lawmakers in Tennessee earlier this year passed a law House sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, said “defunded Planned Parenthood.” Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law earlier this month.

That law doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood. The law directs the state’s finance director to get a waiver from the federal government so the TennCare chief can then bar health service providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving payments under the state’s TennCare insurance program for the poor.

But the 6th Circuit ruling makes clear government can’t keep Planned Parenthood and other health care clinics that also provide abortion counseling and abortions from being paid with government money for services that do not involve either abortion counseling or elective abortions.

… Matlock, who is running for Congress, used wording in the preamble of his bill that is identical to that used in the Ohio law and to language being pushed by anti-abortion lobbying groups across the nation.

“It is the policy of this state to favor childbirth and family planning services that do not include elective abortions or the promotion of elective abortions within the continuum of care or services and to avoid the direct or indirect use of state funds to promote or support elective abortions,” that language states.

When asked for comment just off the floor of state House chamber on Thursday, Matlock instead sent an emailed statement to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee.

In the statement, Matlock said there were differences between the Ohio and Tennessee versions of the law. He did not cite any legal cases or legal authority to support that conclusion.

“The law I just passed is based on new federal regulations passed under the Trump Administration. The two laws were passed under totally different federal regulatory environments,” the statement read.

… Jennifer Donnals, spokeswoman for Gov. Haslam, pointed out that the Tennessee law itself does not — despite claims to the contrary by the bill’s sponsor — bar Planned Parenthood or other similar health care providers from getting state money. She said the governor is reviewing the decision.

“We are still reviewing the 6th Circuit’s decision but note that the Ohio law in that case is different than HB2251, which just directs the state to submit a waiver to the federal government for approval,” she said.

Note: Previous post on the bill’s final passage is HERE.

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