Nebraska: Planned Parenthood Sues Over Loss of State Grant
September 15, 2003
The Nebraska chapter of Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to reinstate a state grant the agency had anticipated using to fund a teen outreach program.Adapted from:
Earlier this summer, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning issued an opinion maintaining the $100,000 grant violated a state law that forbids the use of state money on abortion counseling and referrals, school-based health clinics and research using cell tissue from aborted fetuses. Planned Parenthood said the grant was legal because the teen program did not include any information about abortion.
The outreach program would have created alternative clinics with "Teen Nights." At these events, teens would receive STD testing, birth control information, pregnancy tests, and Pap smears. The grant would have funded the program in Lincoln and another in Hastings for three years.
Chris Funk, president of Planned Parenthood Nebraska and Council Bluffs (Iowa), said in a written statement the program would have provided teens with peer education by professionally trained sexuality instructors. "Too many teens get inaccurate information from their friends and television," said Funk.
In the June 4 opinion that effectively voided the grant, Bruning said the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services erred in awarding the grant to Planned Parenthood because the group receives federal grants requiring it to offer abortion information on request.
The Planned Parenthood lawsuit alleges that Bruning's interpretation of the state law would make the law unconstitutional because it would require the agency to forgo its First Amendment right to speak about abortion in order to receive the grant. "While a state can choose not to fund certain types of speech, it cannot penalize entities for engaging in speech with other money," Planned Parenthood said.
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