LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas will block most Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday, after a judge ordered the state to continue paying for services only to the three women who are suing over the governor's decision to end payments to the organization.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to pay for the services for three unnamed women, referred to in the suit as Jane Does, challenging the contract's termination. Baker last month reinstated the contract for all Planned Parenthood for two weeks, and that order expired late Friday afternoon.
"At this stage of the proceedings, the court finds that the threat of irreparable harm to the Jane Does, and the public interest, outweighs the immediate interests and potential injuries to (the state)," Baker wrote.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated the state's Medicaid contract in August over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. He said the state would move forward with its defunding plan for those not named in the suit.
"The decision allows the state to prohibit Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in all other circumstances," Hutchinson said in a statement. "It is my intent to direct (the Department of Human Services) to prohibit funding to Planned Parenthood consistent with the court's ruling."
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said it was looking at several options for returning to court quickly and seeking an expansion of Baker's injunction.
"Governor Hutchinson's order to cancel Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract is illegal and it does not reflect the values of Arkansans who care about women's health," Suzanna de Baca, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement. "Our doors are open, we are here for our patients, and we will continue to do everything we can to uphold our patients' right to safe, quality, compassionate care at Planned Parenthood."
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was pleased Baker's ruling was narrowly crafted to the three women.
The state says 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.
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.
In Baker's order, she ruled that Planned Parenthood didn't have standing in the lawsuit since the three women were plaintiffs in the case. She also ruled that the women were suing the state as individuals and not on behalf of other women, noting there had not been a request to make the lawsuit a class-action case.
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.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland did not appear in any of the videos and doesn't participate in any fetal tissue donation, its attorneys have said.
Arkansas is among several states that have moved to block Medicaid funding because of the videos. Planned Parenthood has filed similar lawsuits in Utah, Louisiana and Alabama challenging the defunding moves. The U.S. Justice Department has argued that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to cut off Medicaid funds to the group appeared to violate federal law. Utah said Friday it would continue sending federal money to the state's Planned Parenthood organization through the end of the year while the lawsuit is argued.
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