WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court in Cincinnati handed Gov. Mike DeWine a major victory Tuesday when it cleared the way for Ohio to enforce a 2016 law which prohibits funneling state dollars to Planned Parenthood because it offers abortion services.

“We’ve always felt the state had the right to set policy on who is funded and who is not funded," DeWine, who pursued the appeal as attorney general, told The Dispatch. "I’m pleased with the decision.”

In a decision written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, the court struck down a ruling last year by a three-judge panel of the same appeals court that concluded the law was unconstitutional.

The ruling by full the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was 11-to-6. As state attorney general last year, DeWine had asked the full court to consider the case after decision by the three-judge panel.

Sutton, Ohio's former state solicitor, wrote that the Ohio law does “not violate a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. It does not condition a woman’s access to any of these public health programs on refusing to obtain an abortion.”

“It makes these programs available to every woman, whether she seeks an abortion or not,” Sutton wrote. “Nor, on this record, has there been any showing that the Ohio law will limit the number of clinics that offer abortions in the state.”

Referring to the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a state cannot place an "undue burden" on a woman’s right to seek an abortion, Sutton wrote that Planned Parenthood had to demonstrate the Ohio law would impose an "undue burden" on a woman’s right to an abortion.

“Its vow to keep performing abortions sinks any pre-enforcement action, and any speculation about what would happen if it changed its mind is just that,” Sutton wrote.

The law, signed by former Gov. John Kasich, has never been enforced. It denied $1.5 million in state dollars to Planned Parenthood for use in contraception, breast cancer screenings and health programs not linked to abortion.

"Thanks to this very encouraging decision, Ohioans of conscience won't have to worry about whether their tax dollars are going towards abortions," said Mikael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.

Only three of the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics — including one in Columbus — provide abortion services. But the Ohio law cut off money to Planned Parenthood because it referred woman to other abortion clinics.

Judge Helene White wrote in her dissent that the U.S. Supreme Court “has never suggested that a party that could prevail in challenging a direct regulation is nevertheless powerless to challenge a law that attempts to achieve the same result by imposing a condition on unrelated funding.”

jtorry@dispatch.com

@jacktorry1

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