By Andy Grimm
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A federal judge has blocked Louisiana's efforts to defund Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, finding that more than 5,000 low-income patients would have their healthcare disrupted by a move he ruled likely ran afoul of the law.
U.S. District Judge John deGravelles issued a temporary restraining order late on Sunday requiring Louisiana to continue providing Medicaid funding to the reproductive health organization's clinics for the next two weeks as the legal fight over the payments continues.
The judge said Planned Parenthood and its patients would likely suffer irreparable harm if funding for medical services such as cancer screenings and other preventative healthcare was suspended.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, moved to strip the group's funding this summer after the release of secretly recorded videos about how Planned Parenthood handles the tissue of aborted fetuses.
Louisiana was the first of three Southern states to announce plans to end its contract with the organization to provide medical services to low-income residents.
Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions in Louisiana, court records show. The defunding effort there targets other health services that it provides to low-income patients at clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the organization said.
The group had asked the federal court to bar Louisiana's defunding attempt.
“This ruling is a victory for the more than 5,200 women and men in Louisiana who rely on Planned Parenthood for care through Medicaid,” said Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “It is shameful that Governor Jindal is trying to score political points by blocking women’s access to critical health care."
Jindal's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Monday.
(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)