OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A supervisor at the Oklahoma Health Department testified at a federal court hearing Thursday that politics played no role in his decision to cut Planned Parenthood from a nutritional program administered through the group's Tulsa-area offices.
Terry Bryce, who heads the Women, Infants and Children's program, acknowledged that a subordinate collected information about Planned Parenthood as he reviewed contracts but said the group's support for abortion rights was not considered when he opted to drop a pact that was worth about $450,000 annually.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit last month claiming it was denied a continuing contract with the state because its conservative policymakers disagree with its policies.
The state said Planned Parenthood's Tulsa offices were less cost-effective than other agencies that also provide nutritional counseling.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said testimony could continue into Friday and that he likely wouldn't rule immediately.
Oklahoma this fall said that, effective Dec. 31, it would end agreements it had made with Planned Parenthood over the last 18 years. It cited the uncertainty of federal funds and a higher cost-per-participant rate at the Planned Parenthood clinics in west Tulsa, midtown Tulsa and Broken Arrow.
The three clinics average about 3,000 client visits per month — or about 18 percent of all WIC client visits in Tulsa County, according to state Health Department data. Bryce said in October that the remaining clinics can accommodate those who have been using the Planned Parenthood centers.
While Planned Parenthood is a major provider of abortion and contraception nationwide, the director of its regional office — Jill June of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland — said in October that none of the Tulsa offices offer abortions.
Other conservative states also have targeted the agency for a loss of funding. Indiana passed a law denying funding for general health services, and Texas sought to exclude services to poor women under the state Women's Health Program.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has backed the Health Department's decision to end the agreement with the Tulsa-area offices, but her office said she was not involved in the decision.