By Jim Brumm
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood asked a federal court on Thursday to block enforcement of part of North Carolina's budget that bars extending state funds to the women's health provider because it performs abortions.
In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Greensboro, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina sought an injunction to halt enforcement of budget provisions that deny the organization state and federal funds used to subsidize family planning services and provide teen pregnancy prevention programs.
One of two Planned Parenthood affiliates operating in the state, the group received about $212,000 of state and federal funds in the year ended June 30 to fund programs at its clinics in Fayetteville, Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
During the year, the three clinics provided family planning and reproductive health exams to almost 7,000 women, Planned Parenthood said.
Planned Parenthood Health Systems, the other North Carolina affiliate, receives $32,000 of state funds to provide long-acting contraceptives to low-income women such as IUD's and $60,000 in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funding.
Spokeswoman Melissa Reed said they saw 17,407 patients last year, 63 percent of which had no insurance or were on Medicaid.
The two affiliates received $454,241 last year from Medicaid, a program not affected by the state budget provision cutting funding to the group, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC) Field Manager Alison Kiser said in an email.
In the press release announcing the suit, PPCNC chief executive Janet Colm said: "This is the first time in North Carolina's history that a single health care provider has been carved out in the budget and banned from applying for competitive grants from the state."
In singling out Planned Parenthood, the suit argues, the North Carolina budget violates federal law and the constitutional rights of Planned Parenthood.
Specifically, the suit asks the court to enjoin Lanier Cansler, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services, from enforcing provisions of the state budget defunding Planned Parenthood.
Governor Bev Perdue said the case was not the only court challenge to the budget, citing a legal review over its impact on low-performing school districts.
"I don't know how many lawsuits will happen, but that's not the right answer for me," she said, speaking in Winston-Salem.
"My answer is for people in this state to examine what's important for them ... and try to say, 'We want investments in our future and in our people.'"
There was no response on Thursday afternoon from the leaders of the General Assembly.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan)