A federal judge ruled December 24 that the state of Oklahoma is within its rights to end a government nutrition program that abortion giant Planned Parenthood has been providing to low-income mothers and children in Tulsa for the past 18 years. The Oklahoma State Department of Health told Planned Parenthood in September it would end the relationship it had with three Tulsa-area Planned Parenthood clinics that had administered the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, pointing to uncertainty in federal funding, as well as declining caseloads and a higher cost-per-participant rate at the three clinics.
The Health Department noted that this year the clinics received a total of $454,000 to provide WIC services and averaged about 3,000 visits from mothers and their children per month, or about 18 percent of all WIC client visits in Tulsa County, according to Health Department records.
Planned Parenthood had filed suit to block the termination, arguing that the move was politically motivated. But U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot ruled that while the state's reasons for dropping Planned Parenthood might appear to be insufficient, Planned Parenthood had not demonstrated that those reasons were political in nature and related to the group's abortion business.
Friot wrote that Planned Parenthood's drop in case load and other performance shortfalls did not of themselves seem to warrant the state's decision to cut ties with the group. But, he added in his decision, “a routine, solvable problem can become a justifiable basis for strong action when it is compounded by persistent unresponsiveness in addressing the challenge.”
Jill June, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said that the state's decision will likely mean that the abortion giant will be forced to close one of its Tulsa clinics and eliminate six staff positions when the state contract ends December 31. “We are truly disappointed with today’s court ruling and the impact it will have on the women and children in the Tulsa area who have relied on Planned Parenthood for [WIC] and the many other services we provide,” June said in a statement. “While we are convinced of our claim, we will weigh all our possible options going forward.”
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