Louisiana loses first court battle over Planned Parenthood funding

by Courtney Crandell
Posted 10/19/15, 03:05 pm

Four states are facing lawsuits following decisions to block the distribution of federal Medicaid funds to local Planned Parenthood affiliates. So far, courts have required Louisiana, Arkansas, and Utah to continue funding the abortion provider to some degree. Meanwhile, Texas stepped into the fray today by issuing its own funding cease-and-desist order.

The renewed effort to revoke government funding for the nation’s largest abortion provider came earlier this year after pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the money they make from providing fetal tissue to researchers. Although federal funds cannot be used for abortions, they can cover the cost of other healthcare services provided by some Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) includes facilities in both Louisiana and Texas. In an undercover video released in August, Melissa Ferrell, director of research for PPGC, boasted the affiliate’s research department is the largest in the organization and contributes significantly to PPGC’s funding. She also indicated PPGC abortionists would willingly alter abortion procedures to procure valuable, intact specimens.

After CMP released the video featuring Ferrell, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order blocking any Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, starting today. But U.S. District Judge John deGravelles ruled this morning that Louisiana must provide Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood for another 14 days while the lawsuit over the order works its way through the courts.

Neither of Planned Parenthood’s two facilities in Louisiana provide abortions at this time.  PPGC, on behalf of three unnamed women, challenged Jindal’s decision, claiming the GOP presidential hopeful cut the funding for political reasons.

“It is shameful that Gov. Jindal is trying to score political points by blocking women’s access to critical healthcare,” said Melissa Flournoy, state director for PPGC.

But Jimmy Faircloth, an attorney representing Louisiana, said other factors weighed into the governor’s decision. In issuing the order, the state referenced a $1.4 million settlement in 2013 resulting from claims that Texas Planned Parenthood facilities billed government programs for unnecessary services or services that weren’t actually performed.

The Texas Office of Inspector General also released a letter today officially terminating Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. The letter cited Planned Parenthood’s inability to ethically provide safe, competent, and legal services. Other healthcare providers can handle the increased number of women who choose to seek services elsewhere as a result of the funding cut, officials determined.

“The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. “As such, ending the Medicaid participation of Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state of Texas is another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable—the unborn.”

Three other states also are embroiled in legal battles over Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood filed suit in Alabama after the state blocked its Medicaid funding. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has yet to issue a ruling on the preliminary injunction request, but he did request further explanation from the state for blocking the funds.

In Utah, a court ruling forced the state to continue funding Planned Parenthood services. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah sued Gov. Gary Herbert in September after he decided to halt $275,000 earmarked for the abortion provider. The federally provided funding contributed to programs for STD-testing and sex education. The money will remain in place until U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issues a ruling on Planned Parenthood’s preliminary injunction request.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland also filed a request for a preliminary injunction in Arkansas, again on behalf of three unnamed women, after the governor blocked its Medicaid funding. A district court ruled Arkansas must continue to provide Medicaid-funded healthcare services for those three women at Planned Parenthood facilities. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state would continue to prohibit Medicaid funding in all other cases. Planned Parenthood said it would seek a broader injunction.

In 2014, Planned Parenthood received $528 million in federal funds, with 75 percent of that money coming from the Medicaid program. The federal funds make up about 41 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtney Crandell

Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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