Arkansas may block tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said. “All patients should have access to ethical, quality and responsible health care, and should never be beholden to a company that is only seeking to protect its profits,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in response to the decision, the Associated Press reports.
According to Rutledge, the Aug. 16 ruling found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients could not contest the state's determination “that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program.” The 2-1 panel ruling comes two years after the state ended its contract with the organization over videos filmed by undercover investigators that appeared to show involvement in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit. While federal law bars federal funding for most abortions, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the organization receives federal money for other services.
In Arkansas, in the fiscal year before the contract was terminated, Planned Parenthood had received $51,000 in Medicaid funds. The organization runs health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock. The ruling said that the unnamed patients who filed the legal challenge to the defunding decision did not have the right to file a challenge. It did not directly address the state’s reasoning for terminating the contract. The ruling vacated a U.S. district judge’s order that continued payments to Planned Parenthood patients.
Judge Michael Melloy authored a dissenting opinion in the ruling, noting that several federal courts have blocked other states’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He said the patients have a right to challenge the contract termination. The case could go to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood said it is evaluating its options to challenge the ruling, which will take effect in one to two weeks.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ended the contract on the grounds he believed there was evidence of wrongful conduct. He called Wednesday’s decision “a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices.” The ruling also affirmed the state’s prerogative to make judgments on the Medicaid program, he added.
Videos from the Center for Medical Progress appeared to show Planned Parenthood and other leaders in the abortion industry involved in the procurement of fetal tissue and unborn babies’ bodies for sale, which is illegal under federal law. The videos energized abortion foes' push to defund Planned Parenthood. For its part, the abortion provider and its allies dedicated millions of dollars in a campaign to counter the videos' impact and charged that the videos had been heavily edited.