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A.G. Underwood leads new amicus brief opposing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood 

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood – leading a coalition of 18 Attorneys General offices – filed 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 other health service providers that perform or promote abortions. The full appellate court will hear the matter en banc on October 3rd.

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 access to abortion services, and their clients' right to receive such services.

"A woman's fundamental right to make her own reproductive health choices is under attack across the country," said Attorney General Underwood. "This Ohio law – like so many other regressive measures – tries to force health care providers to choose between protecting a woman's right to reproductive health care, and providing other critical health services. My office will continue to fight back."

The amicus brief – filed in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Himes – was signed by a total of 18 Attorneys General offices, including New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The brief highlights the fact that, since 2009 alone, 20 states have now 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. The federal government has proposed the so-called Title X "gag rule" that would prevent health care providers who participate in Title X's family-planning program from referring their patients for safe, legal abortions; and Congress has 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 enjoined before it could take effect, would have prohibited the State from awarding public health grants to providers who perform or promote 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.

The brief was prepared by New York Deputy Solicitor General Andrea Oser and Assistant Solicitor General Laura Etlinger.