DENVER, October 21, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Jane Norton, the former head of Colorado’s Department for Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), has sued both her former agency and Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, alleging that CDPHE officials authorized millions of dollars in payments to the abortion giant in violation of the state constitution, which was amended by popular vote in 1984 to ban both direct and indirect subsidies to abortion providers. A 1986 attempt to repeal the ban was rejected by voters.
Norton, who presided over an investigation and public defunding of the abortion group in the early 2000s, is asking the court to demand the state stop funding Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood in violation of both the state constitution and her own order barring payments to the group, which she says her successors have chosen to ignore.
She also wants the court to order Planned Parenthood to pay back approximately $14 million in public funds it has received since 2009.
Norton was appointed Executive Director of the CDPHE in 2001 by then-Governor Bill Owens, a Republican. Soon after, she requested an independent audit to determine whether the agency’s ongoing payments to Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood were in violation of the state constitution.
In order to be eligible for government funding in Colorado, Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood could not be financially connected with Planned Parenthood Services, the official abortion-providing side of the business in the state. Although Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood claims the two groups are totally separate, they both share office space, doctors, staff, and office and medical supplies.
Faced with this seeming discrepancy, Norton hired outside accounting firm Anderson and Whitney to determine whether the two groups’ finances were indeed as separate as they claimed. The independent investigation found that Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood was subsidizing Planned Parenthood Services, the abortion side of the business, with below-market rental rates for clinic and office space.
Norton confronted Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood with the accountants’ findings and offered them a choice: Raise the abortionists’ rent to market rate or lose their state funding. The group refused to raise the abortionists’ rent. As a result, Norton ended the state’s 24-year contract with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, cutting off nearly $400,000 in planned funding for that year.
In 2003, Norton left the CDPHE to become Lieutenant Governor, but the ban on payments to Planned Parenthood remained in place. By 2009, a new Democratic governor had taken office and appointed new leadership to the CDPHE. Despite the state constitution’s ban on payments to abortion providers, the new Executive Director and his staff reinstated the contract with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. The group had never presented any evidence that it had cut its financial ties with the abortion side of the business, however.
According to public records requested by Norton and submitted as evidence in her suit, since 2009 the State of Colorado has paid Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood roughly $14 million in subsidies that Norton argues are unconstitutional. The amount per year that Planned Parenthood receives from the state has been increasing too, from a low of $1.9 million in 2009 to a high of $3.5 million in 2013.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom are representing Norton in the case, which was filed Thursday at the Colorado District Court in Denver.
“State records clearly show that state officials have provided both federal and state taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood in clear violation of the state constitution,” said ADF Senior Counsel Michael Norton, who is married to Jane Norton.
“Public officials should respect the law and the democratic process rather than ignore both to fill Planned Parenthood’s bank account,” he said. “Colorado voters already decided the issue when they amended the state constitution to prohibit tax-dollar subsidies to abortionists.”