RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty Jr temporarily blocked a provision in the North Carolina state budget which would cut off ban Planned Parenthood and its affiliates from receiving any contracts or grants from the state health agency.
Beaty said he was granting a request by one of the state's two Planned Parenthood affiliates to halt implementation of the restriction until a lawsuit challenging it has been decided.
Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina sued in July to strike down the funding ban, arguing that the group is being punished for its abortion-rights advocacy, and its free-speech protections are being violated.
Beaty's move follows similar moves by judges in Indiana and Kansas who have stayed implementation of similar restrictions. It reinstates more than $200,000 for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.
In a statement after the ruling, Planned Parenthood's Vice President of Public Policy Melissa Reed wrote, "The unconstitutional special provision in the budget passed by the NC General Assembly to ban funding to Planned Parenthood for preventive health care for women was an attempt to punish Planned Parenthood for our strong belief in advocating for and providing comprehensive reproductive health care for women and men in North Carolina. Judge Beaty's ruling will allow us to continue providing low cost birth control and life saving cancer screening to men and women in need."
In writing the budget, Republican leaders pointed to Planned Parenthood's abortion services, but state and federal laws already ban using taxpayer funds for abortions.
The public funding that Planned Parenthood receives is earmarked for family planning, primary health care for low-income women, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and there was no indication the group had mingled its money, Special Deputy Attorney General Mabel Bullock has said.
Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina operates clinics in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Fayetteville. The group said without the funds, it will probably have to close its Durham health clinic, end a teen pregnancy prevention program and lay off eight employees.