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Ark., Utah Take Aim at Federal Planned Parenthood Funding

Ark., Utah Take Aim at Federal Planned Parenthood Funding

August 17, 2015 — The governors of Arkansas and Utah on Friday separately announced plans taking aim at Planned Parenthood funding, following the recent release of misleading videos targeting the organization, The Hill reports (Ferris [1], The Hill, 8/14).

Background

The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.

Following the videos' release, Alabama and Louisiana announced plans to terminate Medicaid contracts with the organization, while New Hampshire moved to block state funding. Last week, HHS warned Alabama and Louisiana that their efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds could violate federal law. Meanwhile, because New Hampshire has only moved to block state funding for the organization, the effort is not subject to federal oversight (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/13).

Arkansas Targets Medicaid Funding

Despite HHS' warning to Alabama and Louisiana, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Friday announced that he had ordered the state Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood within 30 days.

According to Hutchinson's office, the governor believes the decision is legal because the contract permits the state to end the agreement with 30 days' advance notice.

Separately, Angie Remington, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said Hutchinson's decision, as well as the funding terminations in other states, "could have real and devastating consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, [sexually transmitted infection] tests and other lifesaving care."

According to AP/Sacramento Bee, in the last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood clinics in the state received more than $51,000 in Medicaid funding for gynecological services and family planning. DHS spokesperson Amy Webb noted that none of the funds were used for abortion services (DeMillo, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/14).

Utah Targets Funding Distribution

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Friday said the state Department of Health will no longer distribute federal funding to Planned Parenthood (Ferris [1], The Hill, 8/14).

The order does not prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding, but it does prohibit the state Department of Health from dispersing the funds. Officials with the governor's office said Planned Parenthood will have to determine how to secure the funding outside of Utah programs (Green/Winslow, Fox 13, 8/14). Federal funding for Planned Parenthood in the state is about $223,000 (AP/The Spectrum, 8/15).

Company Ending Donation Work With PP After Videos

In related news, a company that has helped facilitate Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program has said it will no longer work with the organization, citing the release of the CMP videos, The Hill reports.

According to The Hill, some of the videos use footage involving current and former employees from the company, StemExpress, as part of its effort to target Planned Parenthood. CMP also released internal StemExpress documents pertaining to its work with Planned Parenthood.

According to The Hill, both StemExpress and Planned Parenthood have noted that fetal tissue donation is part of lifesaving medical research and have denied any wrongdoing (Ferris [2], The Hill, 8/14).

HHS Says No Tissue Law Violations at Agency

The Obama administration in a letter to Congress on Friday said there are no known violations of fetal tissue laws by government researchers or companies that supply fetal tissue, Politico Pro reports.

Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) wrote, "Currently, we know of no violation of [fetal tissue] laws in connection with the research done at our agencies." The letter also noted that government researchers, researchers on government-funded projects and not-for-profit organizations that provide fetal tissue to government agencies all have confirmed that they comply with federal law when procuring fetal tissue (Haberkorn, Politico Pro, 8/16).