A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against an Ohio law passed in 2016 that defunded Planned Parenthood.
In 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Ohio Revised Code §3701.034 into law, which mandated that the Ohio Department of Health refuse to give funds to any entity that performs elective abortions.
In an opinion released Wednesday that upheld a lower court ruling, the panel ruled against ODH's defunding measure in part because the court believed it would harm women's access to health care services.
"If Plaintiffs are excluded from the federal programs, they will no longer be able to provide the services for free. Thus, as a condition of retaining access to abortion free of undue governmental interference, Ohio women must forego the extensive and subsidized access to health services under federal programs that they previously enjoyed," wrote Circuit Judge Helene White for the panel.
"Although Ohio women do not have a right to the programs, they do have a right not to have their access to important health services curtailed because their major abortion providers opted to protect women's abortion rights rather than yield to unconstitutional conditions."
Judge White also concluded that the Ohio law violated Planned Parenthood's freedom of speech and association, arguing that the abortion provider should not lose state funding for non-abortion services just because it provides and advocates for legalized abortion.
"... the government may not constitutionally exclude a recipient from funding based on the recipient's exercise of constitutional rights outside the parameters of the program that have no bearing on or nexus to the program," added White.
Jerry Lawson, CEO, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in a statement released Wednesday that he was "thrilled that today's decision will safeguard our patients' access to care."
"This victory is critically important for tens of thousands of Ohioans across our state that rely on Planned Parenthood for care and education each year. Our patients deserve to have their health care come before political agendas," stated Lawson.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in response to the panel ruling that the Sixth Circuit "made the wrong decision."
"The Constitution does not give private corporations the right to taxpayer dollars. Planned Parenthood receives countless tax dollars a year from hardworking Ohioans, which frees up their budget to fund their real priorities: abortion on demand," said Gonidakis.
"We trust that pro-life Attorney General Mike DeWine will defend this law that protects the conscience rights of Ohio taxpayers at the Supreme Court, and that activist judges won't get the final say in this matter."