LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is ending its Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday, despite warnings federal officials have given other states that such a move could violate the law.
Hutchinson ordered the Arkansas Department of Human Services to terminate its Medicaid provider contract with the organization in 30 days. The move came in response to secretly recorded videos released by an anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood officials describing how they provide fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.
"It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them," Hutchinson said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood received more than $51,000 in Medicaid payments in Arkansas over the past fiscal year for family planning and gynecological services. None of the money went toward abortions, Arkansas Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb said.
Independent state Rep. Nate Bell, who chairs the Arkansas House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Hutchinson Thursday asking the governor to terminate the contract. Hutchinson said he's received a similar request from other state lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who chairs the Senate committee, and Republican Rep. David Meeks of Conway.
Hutchinson announced the move just a couple of hours after telling reporters he was reviewing the lawmakers' requests. He told reporters he was "very troubled" by the videos.
Alabama and Louisiana earlier this month announced they were ending Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood, a move that prompted a warning from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that it could violate federal law.
"Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider," Lori Lodes, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an email before Hutchinson's announcement. "By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings."
Louisiana officials have argued the move doesn't violate federal law because other Medicaid providers offer the same services as Planned Parenthood.
Hutchinson's office said the governor was confident in the legal basis for the decision, saying the contract allows the state to terminate it with 30 days' notice.
"Even though we anticipate a federal review and scrutiny, standing up for Arkansas values is most important to the governor," spokesman J.R. Davis said.
Hutchinson earlier this year signed into law a measure prohibiting public funding to abortion providers and entities that refer women to abortion providers, a move aimed at blocking any money to Planned Parenthood. The new law, however, did not apply to Medicaid funding. The organization had previously received money for sex education funding.
Republicans around the country have targeted Planned Parenthood after several videos were released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress.
The center said the videos showed Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood said the organization receives legal payment only for the cost of the procedure and requires a mother's consent before the tissue is given to researchers.
Planned Parenthood said it believed the move by Hutchinson and the other states is "clearly a violation of the Medicaid statute that requires that a woman have her choice among qualified providers."
"This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests and other lifesaving care," Angie Remington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement.
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