September 21, 2015 — Arkansas must temporarily reinstate Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract, a federal judge ruled on Friday, AP/Modern Healthcare reports.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted Planned Parenthood's request that Gov. Asa Hutchinson's (R) order ending the contract be delayed for 14 days. Hutchinson's order was set to take effect on Sunday, which would have affected Medicaid beneficiaries' visits as of Monday (AP/Modern Healthcare, 9/18).
Hutchinson last month ordered the state Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood within 30 days (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14). 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/17).
Hutchinson's move followed the release of a series of misleading, secretly recorded videos targeting Planned Parenthood, which were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. 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.
Following the videos' release, Alabama and Louisiana also announced plans to terminate Medicaid contracts with the organization. HHS subsequently warned Alabama and Louisiana that their efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds could violate federal law.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Hutchinson's decision. Planned Parenthood has also challenged Alabama and Louisiana's moves to cut Medicaid contracts with the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14).
Utah Moves To Cut Planned Parenthood Grants
In related news, Utah on Friday took steps to end four grants to Planned Parenthood of Utah that provide comprehensive sexuality education, and testing and monitoring for sexually transmitted infections, the Salt Lake Tribune reports (Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune, 9/19).
Following the release of CMP's videos, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in August announced that the state Department of Health will no longer distribute federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The order does not prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding, but it does prohibit the state Department of Health from dispersing the funds (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/17).
According to Tom Hudachko, spokesperson for the state Department of Health, two grants that are set to expire at the end of September will not be renewed. One of those grants was funding the development of a database designed to track STI transmissions. The other grant, totaling $62,865, funded comprehensive sexuality education at schools in the state.
The state also will not renew a $75,000 grant for STI testing at the state's lab. The grant, which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, would have funded testing for an estimated 4,400 samples. Further, the state will terminate another $57,700 grant, scheduled to expire at the end of 2016, which went to Planned Parenthood to provide sexuality education.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the state is considering dividing up some of the funding that went to Planned Parenthood to other groups that provide comprehensive or abstinence-only sexuality education. However, the state Department of Health has not yet taken any action to reallocate those funds (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/19).
Florida Health Officials Target Two More Abortion Clinics
In related news, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is moving to sanction two abortion clinics in the state, alleging the clinics are providing abortion services in the second trimester of pregnancy without the appropriate licensure, News Service of Florida/News4Jax reports (Menzel, News Service of Florida/News4Jax, 9/18).
In July, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called for an investigation into abortion clinics in the state following the release of CMP's videos. During the investigation, AHCA found no fetal tissue law violations, but claimed that three of the 16 Planned Parenthood facilities in the state provided abortion care during the second trimester of pregnancy even though they were licensed only to provide abortion care in the first trimester. Laura Goodhue, executive director at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said the alleged violations were the result of AHCA having modified its definition for gestational periods and that centers were in compliance with Florida law.
Goodhue said AHCA was inconsistent in its interpretation of gestational periods. AHCA during the investigation used a rule that defines the second trimester as the "portion of a pregnancy following the 12th week and extending through the 24th week of gestation." However, Planned Parenthood said AHCA ignored an agency rule that defines the first trimester as "extending through the completion of 14 weeks of pregnancy as measured from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period," or LMP.
Planned Parenthood dropped its request for an emergency injunction after AHCA acknowledged the clinics could continue providing abortion care within 14 weeks of LMP, and the clinics in August resumed providing abortion care at 12 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. However, the organization still is seeking a court order clarifying that abortions through 14 weeks of pregnancy are legal at the three clinics. Meanwhile, state officials have said they will continue to investigate Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/20).
According to News Service of Florida/News4Jax, AHCA is moving to sanction the two additional clinics, which are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, on similar grounds. AHCA fined one of the clinics, Bread and Roses Well Women Care in Gainesville, $2,500 and the other clinic, Aastra Women's Center in Plantation, $3,000.
On Friday, Julie Gallagher, an attorney representing the Planned Parenthood clinics and Aastra, said, "The addition of the new term 'weeks of gestation' that is calculated somehow differently than 'weeks LMP' -- and is in fact some kind of different date -- is evidence that they're making it up as they go along."
Gallagher added that she has informed AHCA that Planned Parenthood is going to challenge "this new definition, or this revolving definition" for not being officially established. Meanwhile, she said she is not sure why the state involved Aastra as an unaffiliated clinic into the investigation, "unless that's a way to refute claims that this is all political and that it's directed against Planned Parenthood."
Separately, Bob Weiss, an attorney representing Bread and Roses, said AHCA has defined 14 weeks as starting from the LMP for several years. According to the clinic, "that's the way that it's been interpreted and always the way that [AHCA] maintained their records," he said, adding, "This would appear to represent a change in position."
According to Weiss, Bread and Roses will respond to AHCA's allegations next week to challenge the fine and a corrective plan. The other clinics already have completed those actions, News Service of Florida/News4Jax reports (News Service of Florida/News4Jax, 9/18).