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Planned Parenthood seeks summary judgment against Miss. law targeting abortion providers

Planned Parenthood on Monday asked a federal court to issue a summary judgment against a Mississippi law (SB 2238) that bars the state from allocating Medicaid funds to abortion providers, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Wagster Pettus, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/21).

Background

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 effectively ended Medicaid funding for the state's sole Planned Parenthood clinic, and also Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic. Mississippi already prohibits the use of public dollars to fund most abortion care.

The law, which took effect July 1, followed a warning from the Obama administration that efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law.

Lawsuit details

In June, Georgia-based Planned Parenthood Southeast (PPS), which operates a clinic in Mississippi, and Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), filed a legal challenge against the law in federal court.

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 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/16).

According to Planned Parenthood, the lawsuit marks the 17th challenge filed by the organization since July 2015 against states seeking to prohibit the allocation of federal funding to abortion providers.

Latest developments

In the latest filing, Planned Parenthood noted that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling upholding an injunction against a similar funding ban in Louisiana (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/21). In that decision, the 5th Circuit ruled that because the plaintiffs, including Planned Parenthood 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/16).

Melissa Cohen, an attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote in the filing that as the 5th Circuit also hears appeals from lawsuits in Mississippi, its decision in the Louisiana lawsuit "controls this court's decision on the merits of this case" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/21).