SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted Planned Parenthood of Utah's emergency motion for an injunction stopping Gov. Gary Herbert from blocking federal funds to the organization pending the outcome of a lawsuit between the two parties.
Current federal pass-through funding for the organization was set to expire Dec. 31 after U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups last week denied Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction. The organization turned Monday to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, asking the court to put aside Waddoups' ruling.
In August, Herbert directed the state health department to withhold about $230,000 in federal money originally intended for Planned Parenthood, citing "ongoing concerns about the organization." Planned Parenthood of Utah responded by filing a lawsuit in September challenging the governor's order.
Herbert announced the order shortly after several secretly recorded clips were released online that allegedly show Planned Parenthood officials engaging in bargaining over the cost of fetal tissue to be used for scientific research. The videos, which prompted vows from federal politicians to investigate the organization and the federal funds it receives, were dishonest and heavily edited, Planned Parenthood has said.
"We conclude an injunction is appropriate pending the court’s determination of the merits," the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals stated in its order Wednesday.
The court noted it reached a conclusion based off of four factors it considers when deciding whether to grant an injunction. Those were listed as the "threat of irreparable harm" to the party requesting the injunction if it isn't given, the "risk of harm to the public interest," the lack of harm to others in the ongoing case if the injunction is given and the likelihood of the party which requested the injunction succeeding in the larger case.
Waddoups said in his decision that the merits of state contracts given to private entities should be monitored by elected leaders rather than the federal courts.
Planned Parenthood praised the appellate court's injunction Wednesday.
“We are thrilled with today’s decision, which will allow our trusted health care providers and educators to continue serving the thousands of Utahns who depend on us as the appeals process proceeds," said Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, in a prepared statement. "We will continue to stand up for the health and rights of thousands of Utahns who rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable health care and education."
Heather Stringfellow, a Utah-based spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said in a statement that the injunction "protect(s) thousands of patients who depend on (the organization) for lifesaving, affordable health care and education programs."
Jon Cox, spokesman for Herbert, said the governor is optimistic the appellate court will ultimately side with him.
“The governor is confident that once the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has the opportunity to look closely at the legal issues in this case, like Judge Waddoups, they will reach the same decision and agree that it is contrary to the public’s best interest to remove the governor’s discretion to make contract decisions on behalf of the state,” Cox said in a prepared statement.
The Planned Parenthood funding in question was set to go toward an STD testing program, STD tracking database and two sex education programs, the organization has said.
Herbert said earlier this month that funds withheld from Planned Parenthood would instead go to other organizations that provide similar women's health care services, as well as local health departments.