Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today submitted an amicus brief undercutting the states of Louisiana and Arkansas’ efforts to block access to care at Planned Parenthood through Medicaid. Last fall, Planned Parenthood and its patient co-plaintiffs filed suit in Louisiana and Arkansas against the states’ politically motivated attempt to end Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract. Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care to more than 5,200 patients in Louisiana and nearly 1,000 patients in Arkansas each year through Medicaid. The DOJ wrote: “[Planned Parenthood patients] adequately alleged a violation of their right to obtain family planning services from any qualified and willing provider of their choosing.”
In regards to Louisiana, DOJ advised the Court: “...there is no contention that PPGC is unfit to perform the services it provides to Medicaid beneficiaries— services such as gynecological exams, cervical pap smears, breast exams, and contraceptive counseling. The State’s termination letter of September 15, 2015, relied on grounds that would be legally insufficient to exclude a provider.” The court filing continues and expands on similar actions taken in Arkansas: “similarly, Arkansas first terminated the local Planned Parenthood organization (PPH) without giving any reason for the termination, and then, after the lawsuit was filed, substituted a second letter that failed to make any actual determination regarding the actual fitness of PPH to perform services.”
Politicians in Louisiana and Arkansas overtly tied their termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contracts to the thoroughly discredited smear campaign based on heavily edited and deceptive videos from anti-abortion extremists. This comes after a California court discredited the bogus claims in the smear campaign videos, and a Houston grand jury indicted its makers and cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing--following similar action from officials in twelve other states that found no wrongdoing. Since July, lawmakers in seven states have taken action to block access to care at Planned Parenthood. Courts have blocked these efforts, for now, in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Utah.
Statement from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Today’s filing shows again what we knew all along - these efforts to block care at Planned Parenthood are not only bad for women, they are illegal. Politicians may not arbitrarily block access to essential reproductive health care, just because they feel like it. As a health care provider, we see the very real, and very devastating consequences of these actions in the communities we serve. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for our patients in Louisiana, Arkansas, and across the country, and Planned Parenthood will ensure women across the country continue to have access to reproductive health care, no matter what.”
Statement from Raegan A. Carter, Senior Director of External Services of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast:
“We’ve said all along that the state’s actions are illegal — and that we will fight them every step of the way. Our doors will stay open, and we are here for the women, men and young people who rely on us for care.”
Local and national public health experts have warned officials in Louisiana and other states about the devastating consequences of blocking care at Planned Parenthood. In Texas it led to a 35% decline in women using the most effective methods of birth control and a dramatic 27% spike in births among women who had previously used injectable contraception, according to new research in the New England Journal of Medicine. Yet the state of Louisiana went so far as to claim that dentists, orthopedists, and audiologists could provide reproductive health care for Planned Parenthood’s patients. In Utah, Governor Herbert’s own Department of Health advised him that blocking care at Planned Parenthood would be a “bad idea” and put people’s health at risk—that 4,400 men and women would not receive STD testing, and that 3,725 people with chlamydia or gonorrhea and their partners would not receive treatment. In Ohio, Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney described the efforts to block patients from care, saying: “It’s going to be a really hard blow to the community. It really will be.” This comes as Ohio Governor John Kasich is poised to sign a bill “defunding” Planned Parenthood any day.
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 over 650 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.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
February 17, 2016