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Gov. Gary Herbert says his decision to cut off federal funds flowing through the state to Planned Parenthood won't affect educational programs for preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but holds the group accountable for "coloring outside the lines."
"Let me assure you the monies we have right now are going to be put into the marketplace with other qualified providers, it just won't be going to Planned Parenthood," Herbert said in an interview over the weekend.
But Planned Parenthood leaders say the state could be thwarting funding to programs like victim reparations and is breaking contracts it had awarded to Planned Parenthood because it was the best provider. And there may not be other groups qualified to perform the services.
"It was obviously an emotional reaction on his part," said Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Utah. "I don't know who else would qualify for [the money]. To be honest, he doesn't even understand the money. It's not his world."
None of the money, as required by federal and state law, goes toward paying for abortion services, the organization noted.
Herbert ordered state agencies to stop acting as a conduit for federal grants that the state had applied for and then awarded contracts to Planned Parenthood to provide the programs. The state can terminate the contracts with 30 days notice notice that has not been received, Galloway said.
The governor's move came in response to a video featuring an official with Planned Parenthood's national organization discussing providing fetal tissue to scientific researchers and how much the group charges for the service.
"We now have a video where they're selling fetus body parts for money and it's an outrage and the people of Utah are outraged. I'm outraged. So for coloring outside the lines, Planned Parenthood forfeits some of their benefits," Herbert said.
"Even though it may not have happened in Utah, it happened in their organization," he said. "If [the federal government] wants to fund Planned Parenthood, fund them directly. We don't have to be in the middle of that issue. We're going to do everything we can within the law to stop doing that."
In response to the governor's Planned Parenthood announcement Friday, a number of Utahns including Herbert's former communications director Angie Welling joined a social-media effort to contribute money to the organization to help continue its mission.
Galloway is in Washington this week, meeting with officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and plans to discuss whether the money could even go directly to Planned Parenthood. Regardless of the answer and the future funding, she said, the programs the group offers will continue.
"Planned Parenthood does not break its commitment to the communities that we serve. … We will sort through the legalities of what the governor has suggested," she said. "We will not stop any of these services. The education programs are for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers in vulnerable communities. We're not going to stop any of this. It's too important."
The governor's office released a list showing that, for the 2015 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received about $100,000 for STD testing and reporting, $115,000 for "abstinence education and personal responsibility education" and $1,339 for providing pregnancy tests and STD screenings to victims of rape and sexual assault.
Galloway said that those figures include some areas where the programs are already completed and the funding used up.
Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, said every year the center refers 400 victims of sexual assault the vast majority women to Planned Parenthood or the county health department for STD testing and pregnancy tests after assaults.
She said the clients the center serves generally prefer Planned Parenthood because it is more specialized and they "were treated with respect and without judgment.
"I'm not going to be overly dramatic about this," Mullen said. "There are probably going to be fewer clients who will report for that important follow-up testing because Planned Parenthood really does have a reputation of understanding women's health care and being really professional at that aspect of what they do, and it's an easier place for rape victims to go for follow-up testing."
Herbert said the impact on Planned Parenthood will be limited.
"I don't expect this is going to shut them down by any means," he said. "I'm just saying we're not going to be a party to this behavior. You colored outside the lines. You're going to be held accountable. Work that situation out and maybe we'll talk again in the future."
Herbert's Republican opponent for governor, Jonathan Johnson, criticized the incumbent at the GOP state convention Saturday for making his Planned Parenthood announcement a day before the state delegates were scheduled to meet, suggesting it was politically motivated.
That charge was repeated in a prepared statement released by Planned Parenthood of Utah, which labeled the governor's action "political grandstanding at its worst. It's playing politics with the health of thousands of Utahns."
Herbert said that he believed that "right now, in Utah, this is the right thing to do."