December 21, 2012 — At a hearing on Thursday, Planned Parenthood argued that political motives prompted the Oklahoma Department of Health's decision to terminate the group's contract for providing services through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, the Tulsa World reports (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 12/21).
The department ended the contract, which covered WIC services in the Tulsa area, on Sept. 30, but it provided an extension through the end of the year. WIC provides food vouchers for low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, and infants and children younger than age five (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/13).
Planned Parenthood's Arguments
Carrie Flaxman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, argued that the judge should issue a preliminary injunction to block the state from ending the contract. Flaxman noted that state officials had testified that research conducted prior to the contract termination indicated Planned Parenthood provides abortion referrals and is affiliated with abortion providers in other states (Talley, AP/Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 12/20).
Flaxman also argued the department ended the contract to placate antiabortion-rights lawmakers who oppose Planned Parenthood and have targeted it through legislation (Tulsa World, 12/21).
Texas Commissioner of Health Terry Cline said the decision had nothing to do with abortion and no one pressured him to end the contract.
Terry Bryce, head of the Health Department's WIC program, said he recommended the termination because Planned Parenthood's Tulsa clinics had a declining client base and were unresponsive to requests for information about budgets and invoices (AP/Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 12/20). Bryce also said that the remaining 13 WIC clinics could absorb Planned Parenthood's clients.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot has not yet issued a ruling on Planned Parenthood's request for a preliminary injunction (Tulsa World, 12/21).
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