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Planned Parenthood mulls challenge to North Carolina cuts

Cecile Richards speaks at a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in Washington
Cecile Richards speaks at a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in Washington

By Jim Brumm

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood said on Thursday it is considering a legal challenge of North Carolina's decision to eliminate state funds to the organization because it provides abortions.

North Carolina is the third state to restrict funding of the reproductive services group, which performs abortions. The Republican-dominated General Assembly voted on Wednesday to override Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue's budget veto, making the two-year spending plan law.

Officials of the state's two Planned Parenthood affiliates are meeting with their legal team to consider options, said Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy with Planned Parenthood Health Systems, the Raleigh-based affiliate that provides services in 75 counties across the state.

Like Kansas, North Carolina's action does not affect payments by the federal Medicaid health care program for the poor. The third state, Indiana, blocked federal payments as well as state, and Planned Parenthood challenged it in court.

North Carolina funding ends July 1 for Planned Parenthood's participation in public health programs, including the access it provides to low-cost birth control and screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Legislators who passed the ban noted the services will still be available to those without insurance through county health departments across the state.

But Reed told Reuters that the waiting time for some screenings at those facilities already totals 12 to 14 weeks, and the counties do not pay for things like intrauterine devices that cost $750 each.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said it received just over $434,000 a year through state grants and programs.

Reed said that is about 4 percent of the group's budget for operating nine health centers in North Carolina, including $135,000 for its Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program at centers in Wilmington and Fayetteville.

The law blocking Planned Parenthood funding was one of three efforts to restrict abortion considered by North Carolina lawmakers this year.

In a late-Wednesday vote, the Senate sent the Woman's Right to Know Act to the governor for her consideration.

Reversing past state policy, the legislation would make North Carolina one of 34 states to require a waiting period before an abortion and one of 16 requiring that the woman be offered information on the risks of the procedure.

Still awaiting a Senate vote is a bill that would authorize various specialty license plates, including one that says "Choose Life." Proceeds from the license plate would be transferred to nonprofit clinics that serve pregnant woman but do not provide or refer patients for abortion procedures.

North Carolina is one of a number of states with Republican majorities considering restrictions on abortion this year.

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