August 26, 2015 — Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court to block Louisiana from cutting the organization's Medicaid funding, the Wall Street Journal reports (Armour, Wall Street Journal, 8/25).
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) recently ordered the state to end its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood following the release of misleading videos that depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation. The videos 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has warned that efforts by states to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds could violate federal law (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/13). According to Elizabeth Nash, state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, at least eight states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin -- have taken legislative action to cut funding for the organization following the release of the misleading videos (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/24).
In the lawsuit, PPGC and three Medicaid beneficiaries are asking the federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the funding cuts. The plaintiffs have asked for relief by Sept. 2 (Wall Street Journal, 8/25).
According to Modern Healthcare, the two Planned Parenthood facilities in the state provide cancer screenings, contraception, gynecological exams, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other services. Neither facility provides abortion care, nor does either facility offer fetal tissue donation. PPGC's Raegan Carter noted that the facilities received about $730,000 in Medicaid reimbursements in the last budget year.
The lawsuit contends that cutting Medicaid funding violates federal law, which allows Medicaid beneficiaries to seek care from any qualified Medicaid provider. Eliminating Medicaid funding will harm Planned Parenthood and Medicaid beneficiaries "who will lose their provider of choice, will find their family planning services interrupted and will be left with few or no alternative providers," the plaintiffs said. According to the lawsuit, without Medicaid funding, the facilities could have to cut staff and hours, and the Baton Rouge facility might have to close completely.
Meanwhile, Carrie Flaxman, senior staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "Our affiliates are looking at all available options in states where efforts are being taken against us" (Schencker, Modern Healthcare, 8/25). According to the Journal, courts in the past have ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood when states have cut the organization's Medicaid funding.
PPFA President Cecile Richards said, "We're in court today to protect over 5,200 people's access to cancer screenings, well-woman exams and basic health care in Louisiana," adding, "Many of these folks would have nowhere else to turn for health care" (Wall Street Journal, 8/25). She added, "This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for the women, men and young people who rely on us" (Ferris, The Hill, 8/25).
Separately, Susan Berk Fogel, director of reproductive health for the National Health Law Program, said the defunding efforts are illegal. "To just pick a particular provider group, and say we're going to defund this group when they are qualified Medicaid providers is a violation of Medicaid law," she said, adding, "In this case, what these states are doing is they're making up a category of qualification based on videotapes, not based on whether or not these are qualified providers providing quality care" (Modern Healthcare, 8/25).
Calif. Panel Rejects Proposal To Audit Planned Parenthood
In related news, the California Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Tuesday denied a request to audit Planned Parenthood following the release of the CMP videos, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
According to "Capital Alert," the audit would have investigated whether Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program broke any laws (White, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/25).
In testimony before the committee, Beth Parker, chief legal counsel of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the organization "fully complies with all federal and state laws in the limited instances where it offers patients the opportunity to donate their tissue."
State Sen. Connie Leyva (D) said, "The allegations made by the proponents did not justify spending over $300,000 of taxpayer dollars for this audit," adding, "Since a compelling fact-based case was not made for this audit, I could not support a proposal that may ultimately hurt the countless women and men that rely on these vital health services every day" (McGreevy, "Political," Los Angeles Times, 8/25). Leyva said the audit request was an extension of a "witch hunt" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/25).
Similarly, State Sen. Richard Roth (D) noted, "I'm having difficulty identifying a specific violation of federal or state law that we're going to launch the auditor to ferret out" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/25).