Herring joins amicus brief opposing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood
Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, challenging an Ohio state law that would defund Planned Parenthood and any other health service providers that perform or offer information on abortions, even making them ineligible for public health grants that are unrelated to abortion, such as grants for health education, cancer screenings, and infant mortality prevention.
The Attorneys General argue that the Ohio law violates the First Amendment and Due Process Clause because the law imposes an unconstitutional condition on state grants that infringes on plaintiffs’ right to free speech, as well as plaintiffs’ right to provide comprehensive healthcare services including abortion services, and their clients’ right to receive such services.
“It is a woman’s fundamental right to make her own reproductive health choices, yet this law and other restrictive measures like it around the country only limit healthcare options and deny vital services to women and families,” said Attorney General Herring. “In Virginia, we have avoided these kinds of misguided attacks on women primarily because of Gov. McAuliffe’s veto. Throughout my career I have always stood up against these kinds of attacks, and I am proud to join with my fellow Attorneys General in defending a woman’s ability to access the safe, affordable medical treatment she chooses.”
Joining Herring in signing the brief, which was led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, are Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The brief highlights the fact that, since 2009 alone, at least 15 states have passed laws or taken executive actions to prohibit family-planning and other public-health funds from being awarded to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other providers of abortion services, even when those funds are specifically directed to support services that have nothing to do with abortion. Similarly, congressional Republicans have sought to defund abortion service providers as part of their unsuccessful bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While this measure is on hold for now, Congress has also passed a resolution that encourages states to pass defunding measures, repealing a Department of Health and Human Services rule that prohibits states from denying federally funded family-planning grants for reasons unrelated to the entity’s ability to provide family-planning services.
Ohio’s law, which was blocked before it could take effect, would have prohibited the State from awarding public-health grants to providers who perform or provide information on safe and legal abortions, even though the grants have nothing to do with abortion services. Those grants instead provide funds for other health services, such as education to prevent violence against women, screening for breast and cervical cancer, HIV and AIDS prevention, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and infant mortality prevention.
With defunding efforts of this kind proliferating around the country, the Attorneys General seek to ensure the availability of safe abortion services and other important public health services from accessible providers in each of their states, and to protect the right of providers to engage in constitutionally-protected activity.