Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

6th Circuit rules against Planned Parenthood

Abortion | Ohio case renews a question the Supreme Court refused to address
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 3/18/19, 02:40 pm

Abortion providers have no constitutional right to perform abortions, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, upholding an Ohio law that would direct $1.5 million away from Planned Parenthood.

The law, passed in 2016, required the state health department to disperse funds to entities that don’t provide or promote abortions. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region filed the suit, saying the law interfered with abortion access and their free speech. A federal judge blocked the law in 2016, and a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit initially ruled against it in 2018.

In an 11-6 vote, the full 6th Circuit ruled last week that individuals have the right to file suit to restore funding to abortion providers, but “medical centers do not have a constitutional right to offer abortions.”

“Just as [the state] has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech, say a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote on behalf of the majority. “Case after case establishes that a government may refuse to subsidize abortion services.”

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, celebrated the win for the law, which his organization helped promote. “Ohio Right to Life is absolutely thrilled that Planned Parenthood will not get any more of our state tax dollars. Thanks to this very encouraging decision, Ohioans of conscience won’t have to worry about whether their tax dollars are going toward abortions,” he said.

Liberty Counsel attorney Roger Gannam told me the ruling could affect other state battles over abortion funding.

“It may settle for other courts that no provider has a constitutional right to provide abortions,” Gannam said. “And it’s a further chipping-away at the overall sort of undefined abortion right that Roe v. Wade gave us. It … perhaps presents the ultimate case that will get to the Supreme Court to overrule or significantly roll back Roe v. Wade.”

The current legal landscape begs for a Supreme Court decision on whether states have the right to defund abortion providers. In December, the Supreme Court refused to take two cases on Planned Parenthood funding originating in Louisiana and Kansas. In those cases, Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of individuals, not just itself. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote at the time that the Supreme Court had created confusion over whether states can direct money away from abortion providers and “should clear it up.”

Planned Parenthood hasn’t said if it plans to appeal the Ohio ruling to the Supreme Court, but Gannam said he expects it will. If the abortion giant hesitates, it could be because of the possibility that the high court would solidify the 6th Circuit’s ruling.

“I think everyone’s question is, what will Judge Roberts do?” said Gannam, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted not to review the Planned Parenthood decisions in December. “And I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that.”

Associated Press/Photo by Danny Johnston Associated Press/Photo by Danny Johnston Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at a pro-life rally at the state Capitol in January 2015

Protecting life at 18 weeks

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed a law Friday that protects unborn babies from abortion after 18 weeks of gestation except in cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life. The Utah legislature last week sent a similar bill to Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican.

The Arkansas House passed the measure 86-1 on Wednesday after adding the exceptions for rape and incest. Hutchinson told reporters last week that the law would probably survive a court challenge: “It’s within the second trimester that states are allowed to pass restrictions on, and this, with the science we have today, it seems like a very appropriate restriction.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas issued a statement on Friday indicating it will file suit, saying, “Governor Hutchinson: we’ll see you in court.”

The Utah legislature on Wednesday also passed a bill protecting the unborn after 18 weeks of gestation, and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the ACLU of Utah threatened to sue if Herbert signs it. Pro Life Utah in a statement called the passage of bill “an amazing victory” and is urging the governor to sign it into law. —S.G

Associated Press/Photo by Morgan Lee (file) Associated Press/Photo by Morgan Lee (file) The New Mexico Senate

Across the nation

New Mexico: A handful of Democrats defeated a bill that sought to enshrine a legal right to abortion in state law should the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The bill had already passed the House, but the Senate voted 24-18 against it. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, praised the eight Democrats who voted against the bill and “stood up to party leaders both in New Mexico and across the nation.”

The New Mexico legislature also killed H.B. 90, which would have legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

Kentucky: A federal judge temporarily blocked a law signed by Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday that would protect the unborn after they have a detectable heartbeat. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and U.S. District Judge David Hale put a 14-day hold on the measure, saying it was likely unconstitutional.

The ACLU has already filed another suit against a bill that would protect the unborn from abortion on the basis of race, sex, or a disability diagnosis. The state Senate passed it 32-4 last week and sent it to Gov. Matt Bevin for a signature. Bevin, a Republican, had not signed the law as of midday Monday, but he tweeted to the ACLU last week, “Bring it! Kentucky will always fight for life … Always!”

Arkansas: The state Senate voted 29-5 on Thursday in favor of a bill that would require abortionists to be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. The bill heads to the state House next. A House panel also defeated an assisted suicide bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. —S.G.

Cheaper by the half-dozen

A Texas mom gave birth to six babies on Friday morning at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas in Houston, according to a hospital statement. The four boys and two girls ranged from 1 pound 12 ounces to 2 pounds 14 ounces. The mother was doing well, and the babies were in stable condition in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Sextuplets are rare in the United States and are born at a rate of less than one set per year. —S.G.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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  • Janet B
    Posted: Tue, 03/19/2019 04:06 pm

    It is unconstitutional to protect an innocent human life with a detectable heartbeat?  Really?  Protecting an innocent against murder is unconstitutional?  Since when, Judge?