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Attorneys for Planned Parenthood of Utah sued Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday, saying his order blocking federal funds to the organization is unconstitutional and "is going to result in irreparable harm."
"We'll fight back against this unlawful attempt to restrict us," CEO Karrie Galloway said at a Monday news conference. "Let me be clear: Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong."
Peggy Tomsic, a Salt Lake City attorney who fought Utah's gay marriage ban, is leading the case.
Tomsic said that Herbert's order unfairly discriminated against the agency and "violated Planned Parenthood's constitutional rights," including equal protection and due process granted by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Herbert's August directive came in response to the release of secretly recorded videos by an anti-abortion group.
The governor's office stood by the decision Monday afternoon, reiterating that Herbert "was offended by the actions of Planned Parenthood and the callousness with which they discussed human life" in the recordings purportedly showing national Planned Parenthood officials discussing pay for fetal tissue used for research.
The videos sparked fury from conservative groups, but Planned Parenthood said the recordings were doctored and misleading.
Aimee Edwards, spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement that "the health of Utahns, especially women, remains a priority for the governor." Herbert, she added, is working with the state Department of Health and other groups to provide services.
Last year, Planned Parenthood got $272,000 in federal funds. Some of the money went to sexually transmitted disease testing and reporting, and some went to abstinence education.
Now, health officials are considering where to redirect about $120,000 that was set aside for the group. It will likely go to other grant recipients that administer sex-ed and abstinence-education programs, including several county health departments, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake, Centro Hispano in Utah County, the Pregnancy Resource Center of Salt Lake and the National Tongan American Society.
Health department spokesman Tom Hudachko said there is no shortage of details to be worked out in redirecting those funds. "We've yet to figure that out," he said.
Hudachko's boss, Department of Health Director Joseph Miner, also is named in the suit filed Monday.
Some of the grants his department distributes come with a catch, requiring receiving groups to match the federal award by about 46 cents to each dollar.
In the meantime, Herbert's order will affect "thousands of women, men, and teenagers and the parents of those teenagers" who rely on the organization for services and education, Tomsic said.
State agencies were ordered in the Aug. 14 directive to discontinue their contracts with Planned Parenthood. A month later, on Sept. 10, the organization received notice that the Utah Department of Health was terminating multi-year contracts to provide after-school programming to at-risk youths and administer STD testing throughout the state.
Planned Parenthood is asking that its Utah programs in question be allowed to continue while the case progresses.
Utah leaders shouldn't have reacted this way, Tomsic said, adding the order came in reaction to unproven allegations outside of Utah. "It's not their job to pass judgment on federal funding that has nothing to do with abortion."
State law bars Planned Parenthood or any organization from using federal or state money for abortions.
Planned Parenthood branches in other states such as Alabama and Louisiana have filed similar lawsuits in order to maintain contracts with states, as well as their federal funding.
Galloway said the organization would continue to provide Utahns with reproductive health services and the programs in question.
"I'm pretty good at sharpening my pencil, at fundraising" she said.