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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert instructed state agencies to stop distributing federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah on Friday afternoon in a decision that took state lawmakers and Planned Parenthood officials by surprise.
"Well, what a shame," said Planned Parenthood Association of Utah CEO Karrie Galloway, after being informed of the decision by a reporter. "He's doing this through news reports — this is how we run our state? I'm sorry, governor, I lose faith in people who do that."
The governor's decision came amid a firestorm of controversy after the release of undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials bargaining over the price of fetal tissue.
In his announcement, the governor instructed the Utah Department of Health to stop administering federally funded grants to Planned Parenthood in light of "ongoing concerns about the organization."
It's unclear how the decision will affect the Utah organization.
Out of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah's $8 million budget, approximately $222,058 in fiscal year 2015 and $297,705 in fiscal year 2014 were federal funds administered through state agencies.
The funds were awarded to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah to provide two sex education programs, chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and to improve STD reporting.
Galloway said the funds were a "small percentage" of the association's budget. The organization also holds $1.9 million in contracts directly with the federal government, which won't be affected by the governor's decision. The rest of their services are funded by contributions and client fees and insurance, she said.
"One thing I can say unequivocally is that this will not close Planned Parenthood down," Galloway said.
House Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, questioned the legality of the governor's decision.
"You usually do your due diligence if you're going to pull funding from an agency that you've been engaged in a multi-year contract with," Chavez-Houck said. "It seems the state is pulling a contract on a political whim."'
Utah Department of Health spokesperson Tom Hudachko said all the department's contracts allow for the department to terminate the agreement with 30 days written notice.
You usually do your due diligence if you're going to pull funding from an agency that you've been engaged in a multi-year contract with. It seems the state is pulling a contract on a political whim.
–Rebecca Chavez-Houck, House Minority Whip
"We'll certainly comply with the governor's wishes on this, but our priority is now going to be to figure out how do we rearrange and make sure there's not a void in services," he said.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, supported the governor's decision and said he anticipated the issue of Planned Parenthood funding would come up in the next legislative session.
"I know there would be efforts to prohibit that. The governor is obviously one step ahead of us," Niederhauser said.
He said other groups should be getting the federal dollars available.
"I wouldn't support any more money going to Planned Parenthood. I think we ought to be looking at other organizations that are qualified," Niederhauser said.
The Senate leader said the federal government would still be able to appropriate funds directly to Planned Parenthood but that "when it comes to items related to health, items related to sex education or something like that, I think they would prefer to send it to the states to deal with."
"I doubt that kind of appropriation would go through Congress right now in light of some of the re-evaluations about Planned Parenthood," Niederhauser said.
A spokesperson from the governor's office declined to comment on the announcement.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
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