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Ryan Johnson, Published January 28 2013

Planned Parenthood calls on NDSU to OK sex ed grant

FARGO – “Politics at its worst” is behind North Dakota State University officials’ decision to freeze a $1.2 million federal grant to create a new sexual education program, a regional official with Planned Parenthood said Monday.

But university spokeswoman Laura McDaniel said NDSU is a state agency, meaning it “does not have the discretion to disregard a possible violation of state law,” and no final answer on the program’s fate has been made.

The organization’s first response to the controversy over the federal grant, awarded to two NDSU assistant professors last September, came Monday.

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota President and CEO Sarah Stoesz released a written statement calling for an end to the “political maneuvering” she said is at the heart of the decision.

“We’re very troubled by this situation,” she said. “A minority of politicians at the legislature are determined to pressure NDSU into ending this program, even though it could greatly improve health outcomes for young people in the state.”

NDSU officials have since said the problem comes down to two unclear court rulings about the 1979 law, including a 1980 district court case and a 1981 appellate court ruling, that don’t explain if the law still stands. If so, that could cause problems for the professors’ plans to partner with Planned Parenthood.

“The only decision that has been made to date is to put the grant funds on hold while the legal questions are sorted out,” McDaniel wrote.