Court drops lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, again

The Denver District Court dismissed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains last Monday. The suit, filed by former Lieutenant Governor and unsuccessful Senate candidate Jane Norton, alleged that the state violated an amendment to the state constitution that bars the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions—akin to the Hyde Amendment on the federal level.

Planned Parenthood Services, distinct from PPRM, performs abortions, so Norton’s suit and others like it claim that the state, by including PPRM as a safety net provider, is indirectly subsidizing abortions. The District Court maintained that nothing in the state constitution prevents PPRM from providing breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV testing, family planning, and other reproductive health care services with funding from Medicaid and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Norton was represented by her husband, Michael Norton, from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit litigation group. You may remember the ADF from when it provided legal counsel to the Lakewood baker who refused service to a same-sex couple in May. Regarding the suit’s dismissal, Mr. Norton said “Public officials should respect the law and the democratic process rather than ignore both” and that “Ms. Norton and Alliance Defending Freedom will likely appeal the Denver court’s decision.”

Norton began her effort to pull funding from Planned Parenthood in 2001 when she was appointed to direct Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She continued her anti-abortion advocacy throughout her tenure as Lieutenant Governor which she then touted during her campaign against Ken Buck in a bruising 2010 Senate primary race.

This is the second suit of its kind that PPRM has warded off in the last few years. Similar efforts have also failed in Indiana and Arizona.

“This case was about politics—not about health care,” said Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of PPRM.

Photo by Citizen Bob from 2011 NYC rally, via Flickr