By Letitia Stein
(Reuters) - Planned Parenthood filed a complaint in Alabama federal on Friday seeking to stop the state from defunding its health clinics after the release of covertly recorded videos attacking the organization's handling of aborted fetal tissue.
The reproductive-health organization took similar legal action earlier this week in Louisiana, which also plans to terminate its contract with Planned Parenthood to provide medical services to low-income residents.
Planned Parenthood, joined in the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, said in court filings that Alabama's Republican governor illegally terminated its contract to provide health services under Medicaid, a federal and state healthcare program for the poor. It seeks court action to ensure Alabama patients continue to have access to Planned Parenthood services.
Governor Robert Bentley gave Planned Parenthood no explanation, and only 15 days notice, when he announced the termination earlier this month, the organization said.
Bentley is among the conservatives voicing outrage after the release of a series of videos this summer by a national anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress.
The center says the videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing. On Thursday it released an analysis questioning what it called deceptive edits, inaccurate transcripts and missing footage in the widely viewed videos, which have spurred investigations in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.
As some conservatives in Washington seek to cut its federal funding, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas have targeted the Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding, covering preventive healthcare services such as birth control and cancer screenings.
“The federal government and several courts have made clear that a state cannot kick Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program simply because Planned Parenthood provides abortion,” Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement.
U.S. health officials warned Alabama and Louisiana that terminating the Medicaid contracts may illegally restrict beneficiary access to services.
The ACLU chapter is representing Planned Parenthood Southeast, a regional affiliate that operates health centers in Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama. The lawsuit noted that the southeastern affiliate did not participate in fetal tissue donation programs.
The Alabama governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)