September 14, 2015 — Planned Parenthood on Friday filed a lawsuit against Arkansas' decision in August to block Medicaid funding for the organization, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 9/11).
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) last month announced that he had ordered the state Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood within 30 days.
The decision followed the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, which 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. HHS subsequently 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, 8/17).
On Friday, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against Hutchinson's decision.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "Governor Hutchinson has no business telling women in Arkansas where they can and cannot go for cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests and other care." She added, "It's insulting, it's outrageous, and it's exactly why we're fighting in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, in Congress, and anywhere there are efforts to block our patients from accessing the care they need" (The Hill, 9/11).
La. Bolsters Defunding Efforts
In related news, Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration on Friday said it will move to end its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood "for cause" rather than continuing its effort to cut the organization's Medicaid funding without providing a reason, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (DeSlatte, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
Earlier this summer, Jindal ordered the state to end its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood following CMP's release of the video series targeting the organization.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and three Medicaid beneficiaries in August filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the funding cuts. The two clinics in the state, which do not provide abortion services, said cutting Medicaid funding violates federal law, which allows Medicaid beneficiaries to seek care from any qualified Medicaid provider. The U.S. Department of Justice also filed a legal brief in support of PPGC, contending the state could not cancel Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract without showing that the clinics were not adequately performing their services or billing incorrectly.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge John DeGravelles postponed Louisiana's decision to end Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts until Sept. 15. DeGravelles questioned whether the state could end Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts despite the organization's qualifications as a health care provider and without cause (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/8).
Wis. Conservative Lawmakers Prepare Antiabortion-Rights Bills
In other related news, conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin are preparing to move several bills in the fall legislative season that target Planned Parenthood, including two measures aimed at restricting funding for the organization, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
According to the AP/Star Tribune, one of the measures would bar Planned Parenthood from collecting about $3 million in annual federal grants. Meanwhile, the second bill would mandate that family planning clinics that get discounted contraceptive drugs via Medicaid can only bill Medicaid for the drug acquisition and dispensing costs, which would cut roughly $4.5 million in funding annually for the organization. Conservative lawmakers also are advancing a measure (AB 305) that would prohibit research on fetal tissue acquired after Jan. 1.
The state's fall legislative session starts on Wednesday. According to the AP/Star Tribune, conservative lawmakers have not indicated when they will bring the measures to either legislative chamber (Richmond, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/13).