October 29, 2015 — Alabama must reinstate its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday, the AP/Oregonian reports (AP/Oregonian, 10/28).
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in August said the state would cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/8). 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 (AP/Oregonian, 10/28). The funding was not used for abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/8).
According to AP/Oregonian, several courts have blocked efforts in other states to end Planned Parenthood funding.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in an order Wednesday temporarily blocked Alabama from ending Medicaid provider agreements with PPSE clinics in the state (AP/Oregonian, 10/28). According to BloombergBusiness, the order requires Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state to be restored "immediately" (Brubaker Calkins/Cronin Fisk, BloombergBusiness, 10/28).
In the order, Thompson said the state failed to provide any legal justification to cancel the contract with Planned Parenthood (AP/Oregonian, 10/28). According to BloombergBusiness, the state originally canceled the contract with Planned Parenthood "under a contract provision that said no justification was required." However, after that move was blocked in earlier proceedings, the state said it was canceling the contract because of the CMP videos (BloombergBusiness, 10/28).
Thompson also dismissed that argument as "beside the point" because the Alabama clinics were not included in the CMP video footage (AP/Oregonian, 10/28). "The parties do not dispute that no employee or representative of PPSE is depicted in these videos and that PPSE does not participate in fetal-tissue donation, and never has," he wrote (BloombergBusiness, 10/28).
Further, Thompson noted 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. He added that as the state did not cite a reason for ending the funding in its termination letter to Planned Parenthood, the organization could file an administrative appeal (AP/Oregonian, 10/28).
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, noted, "For the fourth time in six weeks, the courts have ruled to protect access to care at Planned Parenthood." She added, "Governor Bentley's misguided attempt to score political points on the backs of Alabama's women has been stopped for now, but it's clear that politicians will not stop in their attempts to ban abortion and block access to care at Planned Parenthood" (BloombergBusiness, 10/28).
PPSE President and CEO Staci Fox added, "Today's ruling is a victory for the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for quality, compassionate affordable health care" (AP/Oregonian, 10/28).