Federal judge wary of new Florida abortion law

Planned Parenthood leaders join attorney Carrie Flaxman outside Tallahassee's federal court following hearing.
Planned Parenthood leaders join attorney Carrie Flaxman outside Tallahassee’s federal court following hearing.

Planned Parenthood officials were buoyed Wednesday after a federal district judge sharply questioned a new Florida law that bars abortion providers from receiving taxpayer dollars.

The law – set to take effect Friday – does not impose new limits on abortion.

Instead, it would eliminate about $700,000 of federal, state and local funds flowing to Planned Parenthood for women’s health services and other programs because the organization provides abortions at its Florida clinics.

The biggest share of those dollars is $204,231 from the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County that has flowed annually to Planned Parenthood for a teen outreach program it runs through a subcontract with the Urban League.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle likened the state law to such action as firing someone based on race, or the state voiding a contract with individuals because they spoke out against a political party.

“You cannot impose an unconstitutional condition on someone,” said Hinkle, who seemed inclined to meet Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect.

Attorney Carrie Flaxman, representing the two Planned Parenthood affiliates which cover the state of Florida, said, “the law is quite clear.

“You cannot deprive an entity of funds because of constitutionally protected conduct they engage in,” Flaxman said. “That’s exactly what this law does.”

New abortion funding ban forces changes in Palm Beach County

New state law erases funding at Planned Parenthood clinics
New state law erases funding at Planned Parenthood clinics

A new state law banning taxpayer dollars from flowing to organizations that perform abortions has prompted Palm Beach County’s Children’s Services Council to revamp funding for a teen outreach program.

The council this week said the Urban League of Palm Beach County will directly run 12 teen clubs it currently subcontracts with Planned Parenthood for at least some services.

The council said decision will not change its current funding of  $330,435 to the Urban League for the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), nor will any students be affected.

The changes are set to take effect July 1, the same day the new state law bars public money from going to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood has estimated it will lose $204,000 with elimination of its TOP subcontract.

Supporters of the bill (HB 1411) Gov. Rick Scott signed into law said it’s important that public dollars not go to organizations that perform abortions – even if that might be only part of their overall mission.

Planned Parenthood operates 22 health centers across Florida, including three in Palm Beach County. Fifteen of the centers provide abortion services, including those in Wellington and Boca Raton.

The organization, along with abortion rights advocates, said the new law is punitive and part of efforts in 18 states this year aimed at barring public dollars from flowing to abortion providers.