July 1, 2010 -- After federal attempts to defund Planned Parenthood as part of Congress' Continuing Resolution spending bill failed in April, pro-life activists took to state legislatures to continue the battle.
Four states have passed laws this year that cut funds to the group and a host of others have passed legislation that places restrictions on abortions, spurring legal backlash from Planned Parenthood. Many of the new state laws go into effect today.
"There is a huge tidal wave of support sweeping across the country right now to defund Planned Parenthood," said Ciara Matthews, a spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life activist group. "What the states are doing is what the federal government has failed to do, and that is to strip tax dollars from America's abortion giant."
In response to the defunding efforts, Planned Parenthood has filed lawsuits in three states – Indiana, Kansas and Montana — with possibly two more to come in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
"It's unprecedented that so many states have enacted legislation to bar public funding for Planned Parenthood," said Tait Sye, a national spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.
Sye said the group has never been involved in this many legal battles simultaneously.
Planned Parented won one such battle Thursday when a South Dakota judge granted the group's injunction, blocking a state abortion law from going into effect Friday. The state law would have required women seeking abortions to wait three days and receive counseling at a crisis pregnancy center that discourages abortions.
"This law represents a blatant intrusion by politicians into difficult decisions women and families sometimes need to make," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "We trust women and families in South Dakota to know and do what is best for them, without being coerced by the government. And we stand with them in our efforts to overturn this outrageous law."
In Kansas, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state on Monday over a law that would go into effect today diverting federal family planning funds to hospitals and public health departments instead of Planned Parenthood.
Kansas also passed strict new licensing laws that require the temperature in abortion clinics to be between 68 and 73 degrees, operating rooms no less than 150 square feet and a janitors' closet that is at least 50 square feet. Planned Parenthood received their new license Thursday, just in time before today's deadline.
Tait said Planned Parenthood does not use any public money for abortions, which make up only about 3 percent of their services although that percentage is disputed by some pro-life groups.
"The reality is that it has nothing to do with abortion at all. What these laws are saying is these women can't go to Planned Parenthood and get care for birth control or cancer screenings," he said.
Indiana State Sen. Scott Schneider, who authored the state's defunding legislation, said state defunding efforts were inspired in large part because the issue failed at the federal level.
"I think the fundamental issue has always been that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the practice of abortion," he said.
Planned Parenthood receives about one third of its $1.1 billion budget from public funds. When Congress was debating defunding the group in March and April, Sye said their online donations rose 500 percent.