by Bob Geary
A federal judge has intervened to block the state of North Carolina — a.k.a. the Republican General Assembly — from declaring war on Planned Parenthood. This is a temporary injunction and will hold until the judge hears both sides in court and decides the case. That said, it's a big win for Planned Parenthood of Central NC and a setback for the Republicans, who wrote a prohibition into the 2011-12 budget against any Planned Parenthood chapter even applying for federal funds administered by the state's health agency. At least $200,000 a year, and valuable services for the public, are at stake in the case.
The budget, you'll recall, was enacted over Gov. Bev Perdue's veto.
[Further Updating: WRAL posted Beaty's ruling — here's a link. Key phrase in the 35-page document: To obtain a preliminary injunction, Planned Parenthood needed to make a "clear showing" that it's likely to prevail on the merits when the case is decided. Which, obviously, it did.]
[Updating with this statement from Melissa Reed, VP of Planned Parenthood Health Systems Inc.:
Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Inc. applauds the ruling by Judge Beaty. The unconstitutional special provision in the budget passed by the NC General Assembly to ban funding to Planned Parenthood for preventive health care for women was an attempt to punish Planned Parenthood for our strong belief in advocating for and providing comprehensive reproductive health care for women and men in North Carolina. Judge Beaty's ruling will allow us to continue providing low cost birth control and life saving cancer screening to men and women in need.
Statement from Janet Colm, President and CEO
Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina
Winton-Salem, NC—Today, U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty, Jr issued a preliminary injunction in Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina’s (PPCNC) case against the ban prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving state and federal funds. Despite a veto from Governor Perdue, the General Assembly passed a Special Provision in this year’s budget that bans Planned Parenthood from receiving state and federal funds for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention services.
For more than a decade, PPCNC has participated in state and federal programs to provide low-income North Carolinians basic health care and education, including life-saving cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. The General Assembly deliberately stripped Planned Parenthood of funding despite a shortage of health care providers in North Carolina available to care for the state’s most vulnerable populations.
“Our first concern is to our patients so we are deeply grateful that the Court has stopped the State from enforcing the ban prohibiting Planned Parenthood from providing much-needed preventive health care to thousands of North Carolinians,” said Janet Colm, PPCNC’s CEO.
“The court issued a strong ruling that Planned Parenthood is likely to prevail on all of our arguments and that an injunction is needed to ensure that uninsured and low-income women, men, and teens of North Carolina continue to have access to basic health care and education,” Colm said.
Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina is being represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), as well as attorneys from Wilmer Hale and Raleigh-based lawyer Jack Nichols, in the lawsuit against the state.
PPFA Senior Staff Attorney Helene Krasnoff explained, “Judge Beaty’s ruling confirmed what we already knew, and what our arguments and evidence made clear: this Special Provision is contrary to federal law, violates the constitutional rights of PPCNC and our patients, unconstitutionally penalizes Planned Parenthood, and has the effect of restricting access to health care for some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations.”
Last year, PPCNC provided family planning and reproductive health exams to almost 7,000 patients. This preventive health care included more than 1,000 Pap tests and breast exams, colposcopies to detect cervical cancer following an abnormal Pap test and more than 8,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections. The legislature’s move to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state and federal funding disproportionately punishes uninsured and low-income women in North Carolina.