Linda Satter of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning
that federal Judge Kristine Baker
had turned down Planned Parenthood's
argument that the state of Arkansas's cutoff of Medicaid funding
for medical services amounted to an unconstitutional punishment for Planned Parenthood's exercise of 1st Amendment rights. It is the other foot of the "religious discrimination" argument now being raised by Republicans.
Planned Parenthood argued that Gov. Asa Hutchinson
cut off payments for medical services (not abortion) to punish Planned Parenthood for advocating for medical rights for women and associating with abortion. That is, of course, exactly what happened.
Baker doubted, however, that Planned Parenthood could win on the legal claim, given a split among courts around the country on a similar argument. She refused to enjoin the state from stopping the spending for poor women who previously had received cancer screening, family planning and
other basic services from a provider of their choice. She had earlier been overturned by the 8th Circuit after ruling in Planned Parenthood's favor on a different argument, that the cutoff amounted to a violation of Medicaid rules protecting the ability to go to a health service of one's choosing.
It would be good to see this issue resolved, though given the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court now, Planned Parenthood likely will lose. But it will illustrate yet again the hypocrisy of Republican politicians. In their view, they may impose their religious beliefs on others by putting up roadblocks to abortion and punishing abortion providers and poor women for using a doctor who might also provide an abortion. Remember that abortion remains legal in the U.S. and enjoys constitutional protection. These same religionists must be protected not only individually in discriminating against LGBT people or Muslims or other despised classes but also by assuring that such discrimination is made the law of the land.
Do gay people or Planned Parenthood or their poor patients get protection from religious discrimination? Look no farther than Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's defense of just that in this and other lawsuits.
UPDATE: Rutledge issued a news release cheering the ruling. She said it meant Planned Parenthood could "no long pad its bottom line on the backs of taxpayers." She means that poor women may no longer access the provider of their choice with money provided primarily by the federal government. The $50,000 or so lost by PP was for basic medical services and comes from a $7 BILLION Medicaid budget. This Rutledge statement is more baloney.