UPDATE: Planned Parenthood suing Arkansas to preserve Medicaid assistance | Arkansas Blog

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood suing Arkansas to preserve Medicaid assistance

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STANDING UP: Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, announces lawsuit. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • STANDING UP: Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, announces lawsuit.

UPDATE from Benji, 1:30 p.m.: 
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced it has filed a federal lawsuit asking a court to intervene in Governor Asa Hutchinson’s efforts to block Medicaid patients from using its clinics. (Note that Medicaid does not pay for abortion, except under certain extreme circumstances. These funds pay for contraceptives, wellness screenings, HIV tests and other services.) The ACLU of Arkansas is representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in the suit.

Planned Parenthood also delivered a petition with over 900 signatures to the governor. It included this statement from one of the Arkansan women who is among its anonymous co-plaintiffs in the suit: 

“I have a two-year-old son. I work for a family business with my mom and step-dad; however, the business is not able to provide health insurance…. I rely on Planned Parenthood for my annual physical, breast exams, and birth control. Currently I am using hormonal contraception, which I need both for birth control and for help with my severe cramps and history of ovarian cysts ... Planned Parenthood is my only medical provider; I don’t have a general physician. If I could no longer get reproductive health services at Planned Parenthood, I do not know where I would go or what I would do.”

Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said, "There is already an enormous unmet need for health care across Arkansas. There are more than 200,000 women in need of affordable family planning care in Arkansas, and Arkansas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. By attempting to cancel Planned Parenthood's contract, Governor Hutchinson is blocking women and men from care at Planned Parenthood health centers. Women and men who come to Planned Parenthood for care aren’t here to make a political statement — they are here to get quality care from a provider they know and trust.”

Here's more from the group's press release:

“The federal government has clearly stated that Medicaid patients, not the state, have the right to choose the provider they want to deliver their family planning and other healthcare – including Planned Parenthood,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, which is representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in the suit. “This is yet another attempt by the State of Arkansas to interfere in women’s personal, private health care decisions.”

Hannah Radecki, a former Planned Parenthood patient and a second-year medical student joined women’s health advocates in the Capitol today. She turned to the high-quality, compassionate care of Planned Parenthood when she wanted to get birth control in a new city and didn't have an established relationship with a provider. "Planned Parenthood was the first place I thought of and trusted for birth control and reproductive health care."

“Governor Hutchinson has no business telling women in Arkansas where they can and cannot go for cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests and other care. Politicians in Arizona and Indiana have tried — and failed — to do the same thing,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It’s insulting, it’s outrageous, and it’s exactly why we’re fighting in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, in Congress, and anywhere there are efforts to block our patients from accessing the care they need.”

Earlier, from Max, 5:02 a.m.:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will file a federal lawsuit in Little Rock this morning to contest Gov. Asa Hutchinson's directive that the state stop allowing Planned Parenthood to participate in the Medicaid program.

The lawsuit will name the Department of Human Services as a defendant. The federal Medicaid agency has already told Arkansas and other states that they may not end Medicaid reimbursement to Planned Parenthood because they object to Planned Parenthood's abortion services.

Medicaid pays for abortions only in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood's two Arkansas clinics, in Fayetteville and Little Rock, don't provide clinical abortions. They provide pills that induce abortion in women less than nine weeks pregnant.

Planned Parenthood says only about 2 percent of its business is related to abortion. And Medicaid accounts for only a small portion of Planned Parenthood patients in Arkansas — about $50,000 worth last year. But the loss of even that money — apart from being illegal and worth suing over principle — could have a snowball effect. Reducing staff could reduce hours and reduce availability and women who otherwise might be served won't be.

This will be the fifth state in which Planned Parenthood has been forced to sue by Republican governors, who are using this tactic as part of a broader effort to kill Planned Parenthood and, ultimately they hope, end the availability of abortion in America. The victims are those who receive a broad array of other services, including critical family planning that reduces the need for abortion by preventing pregnancy.

Long-term contraception is among the services provided at Planned Parenthood. Also cancer tests, well-mother help, HIV screening and other services, including some for men, such as testicular cancer screening and sexually transmitted disease testing. Medicaid only pays for such basic health services — all pro-life, you'd say. But Hutchinson said recently released videos — heavily and misleadingly doctored by an anti-abortion group working undercover — had painted a picture of Planned Parenthood as undeserving of any form of public support. This is a direct 1st Amendment violation, of course. Similar efforts were struck down in two states several years ago.

It's interesting to note that Medicaid once provided about $250,000 a year to Arkansas. Why the decline? The change of the Republican legislature meant an end to a federal waiver program that increased the income level — to about 185 percent of poverty — at which a patient could qualify for contraceptive services. Again: No contraception, higher risk of pregnancy, higher risk of unwanted pregnancy, higher risk of abortion.

A rally is scheduled at noon today at the Capitol to present petitions to Hutchinson to ask him to reconsider. Nobody expects him to do so. Medicaid can't be expected to enforce its rule itself because the only enforcement would be to punish Arkansas by ending Medicaid support. This would punish tens of thousands more innocent people. So Planned Parenthood is forced to spend money to sue to protect its legal right and the constitutional rights of all.

Planned Parenthood's suit will be filed in behalf of Jane Doe plaintiffs. A medical student who's received PP help in the past will talk at the rally today.

In the weeks and days ahead, I hope Planned Parenthood will get out more information about the people it serves and specific numbers on the wide range of vital health services it provides that are jeopardized by the governor's ideological decision.

The governor has and will claim other agencies provide the same services. As a practical matter, it's simply not true that they are readily available. Planned Parenthood — which happens to be an experienced, confidential and long-established expert in such services — knows that it sometimes can't find alternatives to help women when it is short-handed. Rural areas are particularly deficient. And private doctors or county health agencies in small places are not necessarily where a young, sexually active person might choose to seek help on a health issue, whether pregnancy or an STD.

I hope Planned Parenthood displays today the letter it received from an adoption agency thanking them for referring a woman with a later-term pregnancy to them. Not that any of the crusaders at the legislature would believe it. But the public needs to know.

I'm on the road early this morning. I'll have someone post a full copy of the lawsuit when it is available.

The state intends to stop Medicaid to Planned Parenthood beginning next week, when a 30-day notice expires. If the state won't voluntarily delay that decision while the suit precedes, an injunction will be sought. Planned Parenthood should be entitled to legal fees if it wins this case, as it should.

A historic note: Planned Parenthood's efforts to help Arkansas women with family planning date back more than 80 years, to a program begun in 1931 by Hilda Cornish. Ours is one of the oldest chapters in the country. It has done a world of good. It shouldn't need saying, because the limited work in this field has immense scientific benefits, but the fetal tissue contributions made by willing patients is not done in Arkansas.


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