National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Federal appeals court upholds order blocking La. from cutting Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that blocks Louisiana from cutting Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), the AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress reports (McGill, AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress, 9/14).

Background

Last summer, former Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration ordered the state to strip Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana of Medicaid funding following the release of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. Multiple state investigations have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.

In October 2015, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles issued a preliminary injunction that blocked Louisiana's defunding effort (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/2/15). In the opinion, John deGravelles ordered the state to continue funding cancer screenings, gynecology exams and other health services at Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. According to the AP/Daily Progress, the injunction remains in place pending a trial on the merits of the case (AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress, 9/14).

Separately, earlier this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed into law a bill (HB 606) that prevents abortion providers from receiving public funding. Existing state law already prohibits the use of public funding for most abortion care. The bill would end abortion providers' funding for other services they offer, such as cancer screenings, contraception and wellness exams (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/3).

Several other states that also have tried to end funding for abortion providers are facing similar legal challenges. Separately, the Obama administration earlier this year issued a nationwide notice cautioning that state efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/28).

Latest ruling

In the ruling issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld DeGravelles' decision temporarily blocking the state's defunding effort. The judges ruled that because the plaintiffs -- including three PPGC patients -- "would otherwise be denied both access to a much needed medical provider and the legal right to the qualified provider of their choice, we agree that they will almost certainly suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction" (AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress, 9/14).

Citing the federal Medicaid statute, the judges explained that recipients have the right to select from a "range of qualified providers, without government interference" and rejected the state's argument that PPGC should not be considered a qualified provider. Specifically, the judges said the state failed to support its claims that PPGC had engaged in fraud or misrepresentation. According to the panel, Louisiana "has simply pasted the labels of 'fraud' and 'misrepresentations' on PPGC's conduct, and then insisted that these labels should insulate its termination actions from … challenges" (Knight, Rewire, 9/15).

Comments

A spokesperson for Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) said the state was reviewing the ruling (AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress, 9/14).

Melaney Linton, president and CEO at PPGC, said, "Today's ruling affirms that Louisianans can continue to rely on Planned Parenthood, their trusted health care provider." She noted, "For too long, politicians have tried to restrict Louisianans' access to the care they need and deserve" (Rewire, 9/15).

Raegan Carter, director of public affairs for PPGC, added, "This victory is critically important for thousands of Louisianans across our state -- people who deserve to have their health come before political agendas." She added, "People of color in our community already face too many systemic barriers to care -- and blocking care at Planned Parenthood would make it even worse" (AP/Charlottesville Daily Progress, 9/14).