“This is a victory for the women and men of Louisiana,” says Planned Parenthood
Baton Rouge, LA – A federal district court issued a temporary restraining order to protect Louisiana women and men’s access to birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, and other preventive health care at Planned Parenthood while its case proceeds. The amended suit was filed earlier this month by Planned Parenthood and three patient co-plaintiffs in response to the second attempt in recent months by Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration to deny Louisiana women and men their right to choose to receive their health care from Planned Parenthood -- their trusted provider of choice. If allowed to stand, the Jindal administration’s action would harm more than 5,200 low-income women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast every year for basic, preventive health care through Medicaid. Attorneys for the Jindal administration underscored its callous disregard for the health and safety of Louisianans reportedly stating at a Friday hearing: "There simply is no compelling reason for the court to weigh in at this point."
Judge John W. DeGravelles wrote in today’s order: “[The Court] turns to the uncontested and unquestioned facts—PPGC serves 5,200 poor and needy women, and PPGC has repeatedly been deemed a “competent” provider by DHH—and honors the public interest in affording these women access to their provider of choice. …For decades, PPGC has served numerous at-risk individuals and helped DHH combat a host of diseases, and, in the process, become the regular provider of over 5,000 women, including the Individual Plaintiff. Like its brethren, this Court ‘believes that . . . vulnerable population[s] should only be uprooted if practically necessary and legally warranted.’”
The state filed a new “for cause” termination of the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Medicaid contract in Louisiana following “tough questioning” at a court hearing, where the state’s outrageous claims that women could access reproductive health care from dentists and radiologists garnered “horselaughs” and made local and national headlines. As reported by Mother Jones, “A federal judge, reviewing the list in an early September court hearing, found hundreds of entries for specialists such as ophthalmologists; nursing homes caregivers; dentists; ear, nose, and throat doctors; and even cosmetic surgeons.” The state eventually whittled down its list of more than 2,000 providers to one that contained only 29 providers. On the state’s pared-down list, only five are in Baton Rouge – two of which don't offer contraception. At one provider, the earliest date it can see new patients was nearly two months out.
“Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their health care. This case was never about Planned Parenthood – it’s about the women who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The anti-abortion extremists and politicians behind these attacks are pushing a dangerous agenda far outside the mainstream. The public and the facts are on our side. We’ll continue fighting in Louisiana, in Utah, in Arkansas, in Alabama, in Congress, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need at Planned Parenthood.”
“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. For more than 30 years, Planned Parenthood in Louisiana has been there for the people who need us and has helped our communities lead healthier lives. We are proud to keep working hand-in-hand with the state and community partners to help thousands of hardworking Louisianans access critical health care. We will never stop fighting to provide health care services for the women and men in Louisiana.”
The Jindal administration overtly tied its “for cause” termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract to the thoroughly discredited smear campaign based on heavily edited and deceptive videos from anti-abortion extremists, according to a letter from the state. The state also cites a baseless lawsuit filed by a former employee in Texas in which there was no admission of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. In fact, the state of Louisiana has confirmed as recently as February 2014 in an audit of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid billing practices in Louisiana that it follows all laws and regulations.
Of the state’s baseless and fraudulent allegations against Planned Parenthood, the court wrote: "In fact, the apparent fragility of the Second Termination Letters’ stated reasons raises another specter, for not one appears to be a supported factual allegation of the kind of fraud and ill-practice with which MAPIL is concerned.” The order continues: “Plaintiffs argue that they have been singled out because of the alleged (but disputed) conduct of a separate but connected company that appeared in one of CMP’s videos and that Plaintiffs played no role in that conduct. (Doc. 45-1 at 2–3.) …In fact, the uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that PPGC does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities. Based on the record before it, it appears likely that Plaintiff will be able to prove that the attempted terminations against it are motivated and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it."
Background on Planned Parenthood in Louisiana:
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast plays a particularly important role in ensuring women in Baton Rouge have access to family planning care, where Governor Jindal’s hostile health care policies forced LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center and the Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City emergency room to close. According to research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 2010, of the total number of female contraceptive clients served at publicly funded clinics in East Baton Rouge parish, Planned Parenthood served nearly 60 percent of them. In Orleans Parish, Planned Parenthood cared for three in 10 of them.
In a recent investigative piece by the New York Times, local and national public health experts made it clear that other providers cannot meet the tremendous need for care without Planned Parenthood. Dr. Stephanie Taylor, the medical director overseeing programs to combat sexually transmitted infections for the State Office of Public Health, noted: “‘You can’t just cut Planned Parenthood off one day and expect everyone across the city to absorb the patients.’” Sara Rosenbaum JD, a professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services “called it ‘an absurd claim’ that other health providers could replace Planned Parenthood, especially in the South and Midwest.” Noel Twilbeck, the chief executive of CrescentCare, which operates three clinics in New Orleans, stated: “Planned Parenthood provides medical care, comprehensive services to many women, men and families in our community. We cannot afford to have those resources go away.”
Planned Parenthood has two health centers in Louisiana, located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and both of these health centers provide care in Health Professional Shortage Areas. In a single year, Planned Parenthood health centers in Louisiana provide approximately 10,000 patients high-quality reproductive health services including well-woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and risk reduction counseling, a full range of FDA-approved birth control methods, pregnancy testing and options counseling, and other preventive health services; and a significant proportion of these patients in Louisiana receive this care through Medicaid.
Today there are more than 320,000 women in need of affordable family planning care in Louisiana. Nearly one in five women in Louisiana is uninsured and New Orleans and Baton Rouge have some of the highest HIV infection rates of all U.S. cities. New Orleans in particular faces some of the nation’s worst health outcomes. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city has lacked health care options for those most in need. In fact, in a recent survey of New Orleans residents 10 years after Katrina, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of residents say there are not enough health care services available for uninsured and low-income people in New Orleans and about one-quarter of residents (23 percent) say that in the past six months, they have skipped or postponed needed medical care.
Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
October 19, 2015