October 7, 2015 — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Monday asked a federal judge to broaden a ruling that temporarily prohibits Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) from blocking Medicaid reimbursements for three Planned Parenthood patients to include all current and future Planned Parenthood patients covered by Medicaid, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Bleed, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/6).
Hutchinson last month ordered the state Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood within 30 days. In the last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood clinics in the state received more than $51,000 in Medicaid reimbursements for gynecological services and family planning. 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. Separately, Alabama and Louisiana also moved to block Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding after the videos were released, spurring legal challenges from Planned Parenthood and a warning from HHS that their actions could violate federal law.
In September, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Hutchinson's decision. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Friday issued a preliminary injunction ordering that Arkansas must continue Medicaid payments for three women who challenged Hutchinson's decision to block the funds. Hutchinson later that day said the state would end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood other than funding protected under Baker's orders (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/5).
On Monday, Planned Parenthood asked Baker to grant class-action status to the lawsuit.
According to the organization, the lawsuit also should include Medicaid beneficiaries who currently use and who will use Planned Parenthood services. Planned Parenthood said such Medicaid beneficiaries "will find it difficult or impossible to access comparable reproductive and other health care services" if Hutchinson is allowed to end the Medicaid contract.
The organization said it provided care for a total of more than 1,600 Medicaid beneficiaries over the previous two fiscal years. According to Planned Parenthood, the organizations provided services including contraception, preventive screenings and gynecological exams.
Judd Deere, a spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R), said the state would respond to the class-action request in court. According to the AP/Bee, the state on Monday appealed Baker's ruling on the three Medicaid beneficiaries affected by her ruling on Friday (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/6).
AG Appeals 12-Week Abortion Ban Ruling
In related news, Rutledge on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that ruled part of a state law (Act 301) prohibiting abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy unconstitutional, Arkansas News reports (Lyon, Arkansas News, 10/6).
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in April 2013 against the Arkansas law. The measure includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder. In March 2014, a federal judge struck down part of Arkansas' law, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than viability is unconstitutional. However, the judge left in place parts of the law that require physicians to perform an ultrasound and tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
In May, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, ruling that the Arkansas law's abortion ban is unconstitutional because it violates Supreme Court precedent that permits women to have an abortion before fetal viability. The court left in place provisions in the law that mandate that physicians tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Rutledge in June asked the full 8th Circuit Court to rehear the case. The Circuit Court rejected the request in July (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/24).