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Planned Parenthood challenges Miss. law targeting funding for abortion providers

Planned Parenthood on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against a Mississippi law (SB 2238) that will prevent Medicaid funding from going to abortion providers, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Wagster Pettus, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/15).

Law details

SB 2238 prohibits the state Division of Medicaid from allocating funds to any entity that provides abortion care in instances other than rape, incest or life endangerment. The legislation also bars the allocation of Medicaid funding to any entity that affiliates with such abortion providers or maintains facilities where such care is offered.

The measure would effectively end Medicaid funding for the state's sole Planned Parenthood clinic, and also Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31). According to the AP/ Bee, Mississippi already prohibits the use of public dollars to fund most abortion care.

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed the law in May, and it is scheduled to take effect July 1. Its passage followed a warning from the Obama administration that efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law.

Lawsuit details

Georgia-based Planned Parenthood Southeast (PPS), which operates a clinic in Mississippi, and Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), filed the lawsuit in federal court. The organizations seek to block the law from taking effect next month.

In the lawsuit, PPS and PPGMR noted that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Mississippi does not offer abortion care. However, the organizations said other Planned Parenthood affiliates in Alabama and Georgia do offer such services, as does a clinic in Memphis, which recently started accepting Mississippi Medicaid payments, the AP/Bee reports.

The organizations argued that the state law limits health care providers' ability to offer abortion care -- a constitutionally protected health care service. Moreover, PPS and PPGMR cited a federal law that allows Medicaid beneficiaries to access family planning services from any qualified provider.

Comments

According to Planned Parenthood, the Mississippi lawsuit is the 17th lawsuit the organization has filed against state defunding efforts since last July. Overall, Planned Parenthood noted that 24 states have weighed or enacted legislation prohibiting the allocation of public funds to the organization.

Staci Fox, president and CEO of PPS, said, "We will not stand for these attacks on our patients' right to health care" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/15).