Federal court: Arkansas can block Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.

The court lifted an injunction a federal judge issued last year that blocked the state from cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood. 

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended Arkansas’s contract with Planned Parenthood in 2015 over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, which claimed it showed the group’s officials negotiating the sale of fetal body parts for profit. 

Planned Parenthood denied the accusations and several state investigations have found no wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ordered last year that the state continue the payments, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Wednesday that the state can continue blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding. 

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Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma, operating as Planned Parenthood Great Plains, could have challenged the blocking of Medicaid funds through an administrative appeal and judicial review but declined to do so. 

Instead, three individual patients had sued over the state’s decision, arguing that it violates a federal right to choose any “qualified” provider that offers the services they seek. 

But the appeals court ruled Wednesday that that provision of Medicaid doesn’t “unambiguously create a federal right for individual patients that can be enforced.”

Planned Parenthood Great Plains is evaluating all options for challenging the decision, a spokesman said.

“This is not over. We will do everything in our power to protect our patients’ access to birth control cancer screenings, and other lifesaving care,” Planned Parenthood Chief Medical Officer Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley said in a statement.

“Extreme politicians are trying to defund and shut down Planned Parenthood — and this is not what Americans want. Every person deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy life and to access care at a provider we know and trust, no matter who you are or where you live.”

Several circuit courts have rejected similar efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. 

– Updated at 5:49 p.m. EST

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