In the wake of videos discussing fetal tissue donations, Planned Parenthood said Louisiana’s plans to cut off federal funds would deprive women of health services for cancer, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood officials filed a lawsuit today against the state of Louisiana over federal funding for the nonprofit group.
The lawsuit was filed against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals by the organization’s Gulf Coast chapter and three patients. The lawsuit is requesting a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the state’s plans to cut off Medicaid funding to the group.
Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an order that would bar Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood. That order takes effect on Sept. 2.
The governor’s action followed the release this year of two edited videos secretly made by anti-abortion activists. The videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of fetal tissue from abortions to research labs.
At a Tuesday news conference, Planned Parenthood officials called Jindal’s actions “illegal” and “political grandstanding.”
They said Jindal’s order violates federal laws that allow Medicaid patients to seek healthcare services from qualified providers.
White House officials have reportedly informed Jindal’s office that cutting off Medicaid funds might violate federal law.
However, the governor contends he has the right to cancel Medicaid contracts with any of Louisiana’s healthcare providers.
“Planned Parenthood is flailing. This lawsuit is without merit and the state will aggressively defend our right to cancel the contract,” said Mike Reed, a spokesman for the governor. “The Medicaid provider contract between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Planned Parenthood gives either party the right to cancel the contract at will with a 30-day notice. Governor Jindal and DHH chose to exercise that right to cancel.”
Planned Parenthood has two facilities in Louisiana. One is in Baton Rouge and the other is in New Orleans. They serve about 10,000 clients.
Neither facility currently provides abortion services. Planned Parenthood has requested permission to provide abortions at a new center in New Orleans that is under construction.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood receives about $530 million from the federal government — about 40 percent of its annual budget. The federal money cannot be used to provide abortion services.
In all, about 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funds is used for abortion services. Another 42 percent is used for testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. An additional 34 percent is used for contraception services. About 9 percent is used for cancer screening and prevention.
In the previous fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received about $730,000 in Medicaid funding for its Louisiana operations, organization officials said. The money provides services to about 5,200 low-income Planned Parenthood patients who use Medicaid.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood officials noted that New Orleans and Baton Rouge have high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted disease infections. They said cutting off Medicaid funds would reduce services to treat those illnesses.
“Louisiana needs more doctors and clinics, not less,” said Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst with the Louisiana Budget Project, a nonprofit group.
The officials also noted that Louisiana has the sixth highest mortality rate for cervical cancer in the country.
“What they’re actually doing is ensuring that some women’s cancer will get worse before it is caught,” said Raegan Carter, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Planned Parenthood officials expressed confidence they will prevail in court before the Sept. 2 funding cutoff.
In the past, courts in Indiana and Arizona have struck down attempts by those states to deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood.
Arkansas, Alabama, Utah, and New Hampshire also have taken action this year to either restrict or cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood officials wouldn’t say if legal action will be taken against other states.
“We are considering our options in those states to continue to provide women with healthcare services,” said Carrie Flaxman, senior staff attorney for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.