In Florida, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a decision to hold up portions of a Florida law that was set to take effect today. The state law would have blocked the spending of state and local taxes to fund Planned Parenthood and to update the health standards for abortion providers.
Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the measures into law earlier this year, thus prevented any state or local tax dollars from funding abortion providers. Planned Parenthood complained, saying that it was thus required to make up the resulting $500,000 shortfall itself. The nation-wide abortion provider claimed that the money was being used for health screenings and for school dropout prevention. The Scott administration is seeking to determine what actions it can take to comply with the will of the legislature.
The new law also required state government inspections of medical records of patients who had used Planned Parenthood services. The organization, which immediately challenged the law upon its signing, claimed that the measure violated the privacy of about 35,000 patients. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote that both parts of that rule were “based not on any objection to how the funds are being spent … but solely because the recipients of the funds choose to provide abortions separate and apart from any public funding.”
Hinkle also wrote in his opinion that “the Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly – by withholding otherwise-available public funds – conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly.”
Planned Parenthood was pleased to have the taxpayer funding back on tap. “With today’s ruling, Planned Parenthood is more committed than ever to both serving our patients and fighting back against politicians who are bent on attacking access to women’s health,” said Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida President Barbara Zdravecky.
The district court ruling in Florida came during the same week that the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a similar measure that had passed by the legislature and signed by the governor of Texas. Hinkle’s ruling places a temporary hold on funding and inspection contemplated by the law until he can complete a full ruling on the merits of Planned Parenthood’s suit.
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