Opinion

Judge: Utah can defund Planned Parenthood, redirect $275,000 to health clinics

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Throughout the second half of 2015, the bombshell discovery that Planned Parenthood has been harvesting baby body parts has led several states to the natural conclusion that the organization doesn’t deserve the taxpayers’ money. So it’s been beyond outrageous that several judges have stepped in and blocked states from having a say.

Fortunately, one judge just went the other way for Utah taxpayers. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ruled that the state does indeed have the right to kick Planned Parenthood out of the money pot for state sex-education and STD programs.

“Indeed, these are the types of decisions that should be left to elected officials,” Waddoups wrote, “and not managed by the courts.”

It’s a reversal from a small victory for Planned Parenthood in October, when the same judge allowed the money to continue through the end of the year. The Tuesday decision ended the temporary order.

A health official wrote an email just days after Herbert’s directive, warning that it would take away services “from women who would have been helped.”

Still, Waddoups wrote, the governor’s authority to act in the state’s best interest trumps the possibility some Utahns may be harmed.

In August, Utah joined a handful of states in defunding the abortion giant, redirecting the group’s subsidies to comprehensive health clinics. Under the plan, Utah would divert Planned Parenthood’s $275,000 to local health care agencies.

Judge Waddoups further affirmed that Planned Parenthood’s guilt or innocence in the organ harvesting scandal was immaterial to the state’s discretion to sever ties to the abortion giant, because the government has a legitimate interest in avoiding even appearances of corruption.

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It illustrates the sorry state of our society’s respect for basic constitutional principles that this is even a question. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about the states having to contract with or give money to a particular private entity; in fact, regulating if and how they choose to do so would have been utterly alien to those who wrote it.

Sex education and disease programs fall squarely within what James Madison called the “numerous and indefinite” prerogatives of the states to decide for themselves: “all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

Abortion advocates have gotten around this basic truth by leaning on the Progressive-era invention of a difference between “formal freedom” (the absence of government coercion preventing you from doing something) and “effective freedom” (practical factors such as cost making it infeasible for you to exercise that right). That’s why we hear not of real infringements upon the right to things like contraception, but infringements upon “access” to it.

But this still can’t rightly prevent the states from defunding Planned Parenthood, the first reason being that the Progressive interpretation of “access” has no valid constitutional standing for the reasons explained above. To go from guaranteeing that everyone has the opportunity to pursue what they want to guaranteeing the outcome itself would require so much control of the citizenry that it would defeat the whole point of the limited, free government the Constitution was meant to create.

Second, we’re not even talking about eliminating any particular services here. Nobody’s questioning or threatening STD treatment and testing or sex education. These are state programs that will continue regardless of how the court rules. The only thing at stake is whether Planned Parenthood needs to be one of the groups to help carry them out.

Beyond the terms of a contract, it’s preposterous to suggest there’s any legal imperative to contract with a specific entity on a state function. This is precisely the sort of discretion that is supposed to be exercised every day: who can provide the service most effectively? What other problems might a certain partner bring to the table? How are we being the most responsible stewards of the people’s money?

If somebody else can use the money Planned Parenthood had been getting to do the job as well or better, without disrespecting the taxpayers’ consciences or miring the state in the depravity of Planned Parenthood’s other activities, then where’s the problem? There is absolutely no reason to care that the same people are getting the same information and treatment from another organization.

Unless, of course, Planned Parenthood is more important to you than educating the young or helping the lives of people with severe illnesses. It’s never about the law, about the patient, or about the children. It’s always about whatever is good for Planned Parenthood, no matter who else has to suffer along the way.

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