OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A spokesman for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday defended the state's decision to cut off federal funding for three Tulsa-area Planned Parenthood clinics in the wake of a lawsuit that alleges the action was politically motivated retaliation for supporting abortion rights.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed the federal lawsuit filed against the state's health commissioner Friday over its decision to terminate Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, contracts and the three facilities.
But Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor was not involved in the decision, which he said was based more on the cost-effectiveness of the clinics.
"(The health department's) explanation is that they found other service providers that can offer WIC services at more affordable rates, and the governor supports good stewardship of taxpayer dollars," Weintz said. "The question simmering below the surface is if this has anything to do with abortion, and the answer is 'no.'"
Planned Parenthood maintains that women and children who receive food and nutritional counseling at the three clinics will be irreparably harmed if the Oklahoma Department of Health pushes ahead with its decision to terminate the contracts at the end of the year. They maintain they will be forced to lay off staff members and possibly close one of its health centers in the Tulsa area. This year, the three Planned Parenthood clinics received $454,000, combined, to provide WIC services.
Health Department spokeswoman Leslea Bennett-Webb declined to comment on the suit Monday, but agency officials have said previously that the decision to terminate the contracts was based in part on Planned Parenthood's cost per participant exceeding those of other clinics in the Tulsa area and the uncertainty of future federal funding.