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LITTLE ROCK – Three Arkansas Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) patients petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit for a rehearing en banc to protect their access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other preventive health care at PPGP health centers in Little Rock and Fayetteville. In an extreme departure from every prior court to consider the issue, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit issued a ruling earlier this month that would allow a dangerous law to take effect that would block access to care for Arkansas Medicaid patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care.

To date, seven other states (Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) have sought to bar Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and all have been blocked by federal courts. This has been affirmed by every other circuit court to consider the issue (the Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth). Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to block Louisiana’s attempt to terminate the Planned Parenthood provider there from Medicaid.

PPGP provides birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other preventive care to nearly 4,500 patients in Arkansas each year; and a significant number of these patients in Arkansas receive this care through Medicaid. There is already an unmet need for health care in Arkansas. In 2014, 204,850 women in Arkansas were in need of publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies.

As one patient -- a plaintiff in the case and mother of one in Little Rock wrote in her declaration to the court: "I work for a family business with my mom and step-dad; however, the business is not able to provide health insurance. ... Currently I am using hormonal contraception, which I need both for birth control and for help with my severe cramps and history of ovarian cysts. ... Planned Parenthood is my only medical provider; I don't have a general physician. If I could no longer get reproductive health services at Planned Parenthood, I do not know where I would go or what I would do. I want to continue to get my care at Planned Parenthood, but if they could no longer accept Medicaid I could not afford to pay for these services out of pocket."

Quote from Planned Parenthood Great Plains Interim President and CEO, Aaron Samulcek:

“We are in court on behalf of the Arkansans who rely on us for compassionate, high quality health care. Medicaid patients deserve the right to access care at a provider they know and trust, just like anyone else. Our doors are open today and will remain open as we continue to see Medicaid patients in Fayetteville and Little Rock and fight for them in court. For many of our patients, they have nowhere else to turn -- we are their gateway to the health care system.”

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood health centers serve an outsized role in meeting the health care needs of those who rely on federally funded health programs. More than half of Planned Parenthood's health centers across the U.S. are in rural or medically underserved areas, meaning that often without Planned Parenthood, patients would have nowhere else to turn for reproductive health care.

Governor Asa Hutchinson sought to cut off care at Planned Parenthood, citing claims made by an anti-abortion group in heavily edited and thoroughly discredited videos. To date, thirteen states have concluded investigations into claims that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donation and officials in each one have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing; another eight states have declined to launch investigations, citing lack of evidence to substantiate claims of wrongdoing. A grand jury convened to look at Planned Parenthood in Texas found that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong.

Not only is it dangerous to block care at Planned Parenthood -- it’s also deeply unpopular. Every poll shows that American people overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood and strongly oppose these attacks.