December 2, 2015 — Attorneys for Alabama and Planned Parenthood Southeast on Monday filed a proposed settlement agreement in federal court that ends the state's effort to defund the organization, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Chandler, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/30).
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in August said the state would terminate Planned Parenthood's Medicaid provider agreement, and thereby cut its Medicaid funding, after the release of a series of misleading videos that depict Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. The videos were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress.
Planned Parenthood Southeast later that month filed a lawsuit in response to Bentley's action. According to Alabama Medicaid records, PPSE was reimbursed $5,600 through the Medicaid program over the past two years for contraceptive services provided to low-income women.
A federal judge in October ordered Alabama to reinstate its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson temporarily blocked Alabama from ending its provider agreements with PPSE clinics in the state. Thompson noted that the state failed to provide any legal justification to cancel the contract with Planned Parenthood. Further, Thompson said that cutting the contract without legal justification likely would violate a provision in the federal Medicaid Act that restricts the state's authority to cut provider agreements for reasons that are not based on the providers' quality of care (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/29).
According to a proposed settlement agreement, Alabama has reinstated PPSE as a Medicaid provider. The agreement notes that the clinics were in compliance with state rules (Stein, Reuters, 11/30). Further, the settlement states that PPSE's Alabama clinics are not involved in fetal tissue donation.
The state in the settlement agreed to pay $51,000 in legal fees (Chandler, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/30).
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards praised the settlement. "This is an important victory for our patients in Alabama who will be able to keep getting high-quality health care and would have suffered if the state had pushed forward with this political agenda," she said (Reuters, 11/30).
Fla. Closes Probe Into Planned Parenthood, Finds no Evidence of Tissue 'Sales'
In related news, Florida officials have closed an inquiry into Planned Parenthood after finding no evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics in the state sold or bought fetal tissue, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Gretl Plessinger, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the inquiry did not develop into a full investigation (AP/San Diego Union Tribune, 11/30).
In July, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood facilities following the release of the CMP videos (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/21). According to Laura Goodhue, executive director at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Planned Parenthood clinics in the state are not involved in fetal tissue donation.
State officials inspected clinics in August (AP/San Diego Union Tribune, 11/30). During the investigation, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration 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. Goodhue 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.
Planned Parenthood dropped its request for an emergency injunction after AHCA acknowledged the clinics could continue providing abortion care within 14 weeks of a woman's last menstrual period, 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/21).