by Kelvey Vander Hart
In a win for the pro-life movement, Arkansas’ decision to cut off all of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding was upheld this past week by a federal court of appeals.
In August 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansas would be severing state contracts with Planned Parenthood in response to the release of undercover videos revealing the organization’s role in trafficking aborted body parts. The Department of Human Services announced to Planned Parenthood that their contract would be canceled within 30 days, but that the organization had the right to an administrative appeal under state law.
Planned Parenthood was quick to round up a group of “patients” (collectively known as the Jane Does) to testify on their behalf and go to court. Instead of an administrative appeal, they went directly to filing a lawsuit in federal court. The Jane Does argued that under Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” provision, the state cannot prohibit them from obtaining medical services from any provider, unless the provider is unfit to deliver said medical services.
Throughout the legal proceedings, the U.S. District Court for Arkansas suspended the flow of taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood while the case was ongoing.
Although several federal courts have already ruled on this issue in different states around the country, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit split with them in their ruling. The three-judge panel decided to overturn Planned Parenthood’s suit in a definitive opinion filed on August 16th.
Judge Steven Colloton stated at the beginning of the court’s opinion:
The Arkansas Department of Human Services terminated its Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma after the release of controversial video recordings involving other Planned Parenthood affiliates. Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma could have challenged the termination through an administrative appeal and judicial review in the Arkansas courts, but it declined to do so.
Continuing, the opinion reads:
As of 2015, Planned Parenthood and the Arkansas Department of Human Services were parties to contracts under which Planned Parenthood participated in the Arkansas Medicaid program. The contracts provided that either party could terminate them without cause by giving thirty days’ notice.
The court went back and forth for a little while, but ultimately decided that the argument of “free choice of provider” is an individual argument, not one to be made on behalf of an entire organization:
“Arkansas did not decertify Planned Parenthood as a medical provider. Rather, the state terminated only Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid Provider Agreement; Planned Parenthood is still licensed to serve other patients,” Colloton writes. “As a result, I would affirm the orders of the district court enjoining the Arkansas Department of Human Services from suspending Medicaid payments.”
Arkansas joined Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin in moving to cut off state funds from Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress videos were released in 2015.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0