Federal Court Rules Arkansas Can Halt Planned Parenthood Funding

ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- A federal appeals court ruled that Arkansas can halt Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood on Wednesday (Aug. 16).

In 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson directed the Arkansas Department of Human Services to end a contract with Planned Parenthood through the Arkansas Medicaid program, essentially cutting off state funding to the reproductive health organization.

The decision came after an anti-abortion group shared videos, which reportedly appeared to show the organization selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood, however, maintained that it did not profit from the fetal tissue that it donated to medical researchers.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court's preliminary injunction blocking the state from cutting off Medicaid funding for patients who received services through Planned Parenthood.

The plaintiffs, three patients, claimed that suspending funding violated Medicaid's "free choice of provider" provision.

The court ruled that patients didn't have the right to sue over the medical provider. The court found that there are other qualified providers available that provide the same services, and while the state can't steer patients to or from one provider, individuals have "no right to a particular provider the state has decertified."

Planned Parenthood Great Plains released a statement that said in part: "Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) condemns the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit decision reversing protections for Arkansas Medicaid patients who choose Planned Parenthood for health care. PPGP is an expert, compassionate sexual and reproductive health care provider that Arkansans rely on for life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and birth control. Today’s decision does not go into effect yet and therefore will not have any immediate impacts to Medicaid patients in Arkansas. PPGP is evaluating all options to ensure our patients receive uninterrupted care at Planned Parenthood."

State Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, applauded the decision by the court. She added that of the 179 health clinics in Arkansas, Planned Parenthood operates only two locations around the state.

"They got it right. I think it's the right move. I think it's a good move for the taxpayer. We have 179 health clinics in Arkansas, this doesn't hurt women at all."

Both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released separate statements that praised the ruling.

Hutchinson stated: “In 2015, the state terminated its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood because there was evidence that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates were acting in an unethical manner and engaging in what appeared to be wrongful conduct. I am pleased with the ruling of the 8th Circuit today reversing Judge Baker on her injunction that blocked the state from proceeding. The decision allows the state to proceed with the termination of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. This is a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices and affirms the prerogative of the state to make reasoned judgments on the Medicaid program.”

Rutledge said: “The 8th Circuit rightfully agreed with me in my defense of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s decision to terminate the contract with Planned Parenthood after videos surfaced allegedly showing Planned Parenthood could be involved in selling aborted fetal body parts for profit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Court found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients it recruited could not contest in federal court Arkansas’s determination that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program. 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.”