Defunding Planned Parenthood Unconstitutional, says Wayne State Law Professor

Bob Sedler says Congress cannot punish the organization for providing a service that is constitutionally protected.

Jake Neher/WDET

The appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has raised the specter of Roe v. Wade — the 1973 landmark decision that guaranteed women the right to legal abortions in America. Gorsuch is considered a conservative, and many pro-life advocates hope he would favor overturning abortion rights if a viable case came before the court.

Meanwhile, a Republican-led Congress is working to end funding for Planned Parenthood, unless it ends abortion services for women. Planned Parenthood has long argued that federal funds aren’t used on abortions. Its business model provides a wide array of medical services for women — including exams, mammograms, and contraception.

Robert Sedler is a distinguished professor of law at Wayne State University who has argued cases before the Supreme Court. In a recent Detroit Free Press Op-Ed, Sedler made the case that denying funds for Planned Parenthood would be illegal, and Congress cannot punish the organization for providing a service that is constitutionally protected.

Sedler recently spoke with Detroit Today producer Laura Weber-Davis about the issue.

“It is legislative punishment,” he says. “There is no conceivable, legitimate interest in denying funds for medical procedures that they perform for women. There are no federal funds that are used for abortions. So it’s clearly an unconstitutional bill of attainder. It has no place in the American constitutional system.”

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson continues the conversation with Ed Rivet, legislative director of Right to Life of Michigan.

“(Sedler) couldn’t be more wrong with a gigantic, capital W in front of it,” says Rivet, in response to Sedler. “Yes, women have a right to abortion. They do not have a right to a government funded abortion. We don’t pay for abortion with medicaid. We had that debate in our state 29 years ago. We voted for it as a public and said no, we’re not going to pay for abortions with our tax dollars.”

To hear the full conversation, click the audio player above.


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