A federal court says Utah can end its contracts with Planned Parenthood.
In the wake of video disclosures earlier this year that Planned Parenthood employees appeared to be engaging in the sale of body parts obtained through abortions, Utah governor Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to end the practice of funneling federal grants to Planned Parenthood’s Utah affiliate. This required the state to end or not renew four contracts with Planned Parenthood — contracts involving sex education and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Other states made similar decisions.
As far-fetched as the argument for a constitutional obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and to maintain contracts with them would seem, the group had an initial legal victory at the end of September. A federal district court issued a terse opinion relying heavily on the idea that accusations stemming from the conduct disclosed in the videos had not been proven. The court assumed that the governor’s motivation for ending the state’s contracts with Planned Parenthood must have been motivated by unconstitutional reasons, and the judge ordered Herbert “to state in writing a legitimate basis” for defunding, declining to renew, or not issuing a contract to the organization.
Of course, this sounded ominously like a federal judge announcing a constitutional right of a vendor to the government’s business. It would have required the state to implicitly approve of activities the governor — and probably the overwhelming majority of citizens of the Utah — find shocking and reprehensible.