ND Attorney General Rules NDSU Planned Parenthood Funding Legal


North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has ruled that the law which some claimed prohibited North Dakota State University from accepting a grant to partner with Planned Parenthood isn’t valid:

BISMARCK – The state law behind North Dakota State University administrators’ decision to freeze a $1.2 million federal grant was “completely invalidated” by a 1981 court ruling and wouldn’t bar plans to offer a new sex education program, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Thursday.

Stenehjem was formally asked to look into the issue two weeks ago after weeks of uncertainty and questions of academic freedom behind the decision to freeze the three-year grant, made available through the Department of Health and Human Services, to provide voluntary comprehensive sex education to Fargo-area teens ages 15 to 19 with parental consent.

Accepting the grant may be technically legal, but it’s certainly inappropriate given that the state legislature turned down acceptance of the grant, which came through Obamacare, last session.

NDSU has a duty to respect the wishes of the legislature. Sadly, and this is something that speaks to our fundamental problem with higher education in North Dakota, the university system usually doesn’t feel any obligation to pay more than lip service to the wishes of the legislature.

Which is just another reason why the independence of the university system should be ended.

The legislature’s response to this is clear. If NDSU wants to accept grants the legislature has specifically turned down, then NDSU’s budget can be reduced by the amount of that grant.

Update: The ND University System has already announced that NDSU will go forward with accepting the funds:

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani said the legal opinion allows the professors to move forward.

“We are pleased the Attorney General has provided his guidance on this matter in such a timely manner,” he said in a statement. “It is good news that our concern about our faculty being in violation of the law has been removed, and they will be able to accept this generous grant and begin the work intended for these funds.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Three times damages.

    Where is the leadership by the board of higher education.

  • Opinion8ed

    Match it dollar for dollar, if they received a 1.2 million dollar federal grant reduce the funding by as much, then let them decide if they really want this. Maybe the Pro choice people could make the difference

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Exactly. That’s how the legislature should respond.

  • disqus_IEwqcrJt23

    NDSU just released the funds.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Just added that update, thanks.

  • OverStated

    This is still a clear waste of spending, costing $3,333 per student for a ~10 week class. That’s more than the cost of an entire semester at NDSU.

  • RCND

    Not surprising from that RINO

    • Guest

      I know, right!? I true Republican wouldn’t let a silly thing like the law interfere with Republican goals.

    • Roy_Bean

      Stenehjem has ruled that under the law as it is written now it is legal. There has been much talk on this blog that the law has to change. It isn’t the place of Mr. Stenehjem to change the law, only to give his opinion of how it is written now. It’s up to the legislature or the people to make what ever changes are necessary.

  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    Stenehjem is always a useful idiot for the education cabal.

  • Ladd Erickson

    Set aside the policy and the subject matter, and set aside the fact that Planned Parenthood is involved. We have a state statute that the federal courts invalidated long ago. The NDSU general counsel asks the AG the question: “Is our statute invalidated by that 8th Circuit opinion regarding that same statute? The AG does his job and gives the only answer he can – yes the 8th Circuit invalidated the statute. It was the only answer the AG could give. NDSU knew that was the answer to the question before they asked it but apparently felt the need to have some political cover by asking the AG a question that forced him to answer yes. And when the AG does his job he is a “RINO” and “useful idiot” by some commentators ….Get a grip….I suppose when some of the abortion bills this session are struck down in the courts and we have to pay attorney fees and costs to Planned Parenthood for them beating us in court that will also mean the AG is a RINO, and the legislators that over-zealously put us in a unwinnable legal position will be the heroes? .

    • Guest Observer

      Sounds like someone likes to embrace RINOism.

      • Ladd Erickson

        If embracing RINOism means supporting people that read things like statutes and court opinions, and base their opinions on the clear law in those things, guilty….

        • Guest Observer

          Admitting it is the first step. But you have confused RINOism with doing what is right. But you are getting there Ladd.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’ve not said anything about the merits of Stenehjem’s opinion, but I think it’s probably the right one on the law.

      But I do wonder, Ladd, given your positions in general if there is any part of a conservative platform worth sticking up for. All I seem to get from you is long explanations about why we can’t be conservative.

      • Ladd Erickson

        May be I just enjoy disagreeing with you, you ever think of that? If you are referring to my comments on the abortion bills, I don’t find anything conservative about using tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood though them winning section 1983 actions against the state after this session. …..When you lose those cases you have to pay the other sides legal fees, and the record is already being set up for that to occur.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          So, we should do nothing with regard to abortion?

          Sound suspiciously like your position on tax relief. Because you can find quibbles with every plan, we should do nothing.

          With that kind of conservative thinking, who needs liberals?

          • Ladd Erickson

            What you should do if the goal is the overruling of Roe is follow the advice of the attorney that argues the pro-life position when a abortion case goes to the USSC. Passing a statute at the legislature is the feel good easy part of the equation,….:


    • wj

      Ladd, have you read the 8th circuit opinion? I’m finding it hard to interpret it as the AG has. The opinion turns on only one thing: Whether the law was unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause because the state was participating in the Title X program, which required referrals for abortions. Therefore, it would seem that the correct interpretation of the court’s opinion is that the law was unenforceable with regards to participation in that federal program and would still be valid law as to state money not used in any way with the Title X program.

      I don’t think the law, case, or opinion has anything to do with the NDSU/Planned Parenthood controversy.

      I just don’t see how the AG came up with his conclusion.

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        Stenehjem is part of the higher ed can do no wrong set

        • sbark

          ie the Ruling Class Elites “set”……….just once, we should all get to be servants at their dinner parties…….

      • Ladd Erickson

        Just read the 8th Cir. opinion at your suggestion. Interesting that the district court invalidated the statute on 1st Amendment grounds and not the statutory conflicts with federal law. Then the 8th Cir. upheld the district court, but on supremacy and didn’t address the 1st and 14th Amendment claims .

        The 8th Cir.’s opinion is not an “as applied” opinion – or “as applied” to Title X because they refused to craft exceptions they way I read it. What the AG is saying is the 8th Cir has declared the statute facially unconstitutional regardless of application or exception. The present-day 8th Cir might not agree with that interpretation, but as direct and the 8th Cir wrote that opinion I think Wayne has the right call……

    • RCND

      This decision didn’t all of a sudden make him a RINO. He has been one ever since he exchanged the D for an R next to his name years ago to become electable but kept his ideology intact. I would buy your “upholding the law” rant if he actually did it consistently, but he doesn’t. Reference the DSU scandal as a prime example.

      And I am thankful we have legislators who are not afraid to face a legal challenge to do what is right to preserve the rights of the defenseless unborn. Could the cases be lost in court? Sure. But Ill take that over those who base their morals and convictions on legal advise from lawyers, and thus fail to do what they can to defend life

      • Ladd Erickson

        Wayne has been a life long member of the GOP, as has his whole family.

        • RCND

          Maybe he carried the card but not the ideology.

  • Dakotacyr

    Fantastic news! D,otacyr

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’m sure you wouldn’t think it was so fantastic if it was a right-wing group partnering with NDSU for “research.”

      But that’s just the sort of hypocrite you are.

  • yy4u2

    If they want to do things as a private entity, then by all means, cut all tax payer funding.

  • sbark

    As vocal as Joel Heitkamp was that this “research” should be allowed, This project should be called the Joel Heitkamp Fargo Underage Sex Research Project.