House Democrats are pushing Gov. Gary Herbert to drop his attempts to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, following the indictment of the leader of a group that created highly edited undercover videos that alleged to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue.
After the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released the edited videos in 2015, Herbert announced on the eve of the Utah Republican Party Convention that he was directing state agencies to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood that was used for STD screenings and educational programs.
Planned Parenthood sued, and the governor’s order has been put on hold while the case is before the 10th Circuit Court.
“The Governor reacted to a heavily edited, highly political video,” Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said in a press statement. “He stated that even though none of the videos occurred in Utah, that the organization had ‘colored outside the lines’ and no longer deserved funding.”
On Monday, a Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood cleared the organization of any wrongdoing, instead indicting the heads of the anti-abortion group who made the videos for illegally tampering with a governmental record, which is a felony.
“I don’t know much about the indictment,” says Gov. Gary Herbert. “An indictment just means you’re charged, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty. And as I understand it, the indictment had to do with the way [Center for Medical Progress] filmed the videos, not about the content.”
Herbert declined to weigh in on the Texas grand jury clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, saying that he is looking to Congress and waiting for other investigations to conclude.
“The governor is setting a dangerous precedent for state contractors,” Chavez-Houck tells City Weekly
. “If I were an organization or businesses, this would make me reconsider whether or not I want to contract with state, knowing that my contract could be reversed by the Governor based on political expediency, regardless of whether I’m fulfilling the obligations of my contract.”
Herbert disagreed with Chavez-Houck’s characterizations of his order, and said his decision to strip Planned Parenthood of the funding wasn’t a political one. “This is not subject to political whims,” says Herbert, “this is subject to contract law, and we have not violated the contract at all. ... The contract that we had with Planned Parenthood allowed us to give 30 days’ notice [to pull funding].
“I don’t’ know if we should call it politics,” Herbert added. “The concern was whether [Planned Parenthood of Utah’s] parent organization was violating the law.”