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The Utah governor’s order to block funding to Planned Parenthood probably was a political move designed to punish the group, a federal appeals court wrote in an ruling that ordered the state to keep the money flowing.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided Tuesday there’s a good chance the governor’s order violated the group’s constitutional rights.

Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert cut off cash last fall for sexually transmitted disease and sex education programs after the release of secretly recorded videos showing out-of-state employees discussing fetal tissue from abortions.

The head of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah hailed the ruling as a victory for the clinic’s patients.

“Our doors are open today and they will be tomorrow — no matter what,” CEO Karrie Galloway said in a statement.

Herbert’s spokesman says the governor believes contract decisions should be made by the state and that he was disappointed in the ruling blocking the defunding order while Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging it goes back to be heard by a lower court.

The state is considering its next legal steps, which could include asking the full 10th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s decision.

Herbert didn’t comment on a finding by two appeals court judges that he likely used the controversy to politically attack the group because it provides abortions. A third judge dissented and questioned whether Planned Parenthood would ultimately prevail.

Lawyers for the Utah branch argued it has never participated in fetal donation programs.


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