Florida is not allowed to defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who made it clear that he was opposed to the state legislation during hearings earlier this summer, permanently blocked the legislation from going into effect, ABC News reports.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the law after Gov. Rick Scott signed it in March. The law would have stripped approximately half a million dollars in taxpayer funding from groups that perform abortions. It also required more rigorous state inspections of abortion facilities.
The Florida legislation would have redirected the tax dollars to other non-abortion community health centers, ensuring that women will have access to basic health services. Community health centers, which offer comprehensive health care to women and families, outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by 20 to one.
Like many other pieces of legislation introduced across the U.S. in recent months, the legislation came in response to a series of undercover videos showing the top employees of Planned Parenthood haggling over the price of aborted babies’ body parts.
Here’s more from the report:
[I]nstead of taking the case to trial and offering additional evidence or legal arguments, attorneys for the Scott administration agreed to forgo further legal action. They filed a joint motion with the plaintiffs earlier this month agreeing to end the litigation. Hinkle held a brief hearing to discuss the move and issued his final ruling hours later.
“We are grateful the court stepped in to stop Rick Scott in his tracks and protect access to health care,” said Lillian Tamayo, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. “If this law had gone into effect, it would have made a bad situation even worse.”
The move by the Scott administration greatly sped up resolution of the case.
The state could still appeal the ruling, but Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, would not say if the administration would do that. She said instead the governor’s office was reviewing Hinkle’s decision although she added that “Scott is a pro-life governor who believes in the sanctity of life.” Nonetheless, any appeal could be limited because the state cannot make any new arguments or offer additional evidence.
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The ruling came as little surprise after Judge Hinkle came down hard against the state law during a hearing in July and reportedly “grilled” state attorneys who were defending the law during a “heated exchange.” He temporarily blocked the law after that hearing, and his decision on Thursday makes the block permanent.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly — by withholding otherwise-available public funds — conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in his July decision.
Planned Parenthood leaders in Florida rejoiced at the news, calling it a “victory” for people who rely on them for services, News 4 JAX reports.
When the legislation passed in March, state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the legislation, said her bill would ensure that women receive quality care.
“It is not a bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose … It’s getting the same level of care that she would have if she walked into any other clinic,” Stargel said.