LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging Arkansas' cancellation of its Medicaid provider contract, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated amid concerns about secretly recorded videos released by an anti-abortion group.
The Republican governor ordered the Arkansas Department of Human Services last month to end its contract with Planned Parenthood; the deadline is Monday night. The state has said 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.
The lawsuit asks a judge to block the contract's cancellation. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which filed the lawsuit, also released a petition Friday with about 930 signatures asking Hutchinson to retract his order.
"What we need in Arkansas is more health care, not more politics," said Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. "The federal government has made it clear to Arkansas and to all 50 states that excluding a qualified provider like Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program is illegal."
De Baca said the two Planned Parenthood clinics in Arkansas saw more than 4,000 patients during the last fiscal year, and about a quarter of them were on Medicaid.
The governor said the legal action was expected.
"We will review the lawsuit and respond appropriately," Hutchinson wrote in an emailed statement. "Notwithstanding the lawsuit, I remain satisfied that we did the right thing to reflect Arkansas's values."
DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb said the agency will not be sending out notices to Medicaid recipients about the change in service providers. She said the agency only sends notices when a primary care physician is taken off the service-provider list.
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. But the new law didn't apply to Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood had previously received money for sex education funding.
The U.S. Justice Department argued last week that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to cut Medicaid payments in that state appeared to violate federal law.
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 that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood has 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.