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GOP Lawmakers Cut Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid Funds, Despite Federal Warning

Teddy Wilson

Republicans have justified cutting funding to Planned Parenthood by citing a series of videos published by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress.

See more of our coverage on the effects of the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Republican lawmakers in five states have now moved to defund Planned Parenthood by banning the organization from receiving payments from the Medicaid program, despite warnings from the federal government that doing so is against the law.

Legislators have justified cutting funding to Planned Parenthood by citing a series of videos published by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress. The videos feature heavily edited footage of secretly taped conversations with Planned Parenthood officials.

Republican governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah cancelled Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood. New Hampshire lawmakers recently voted to end a $640,000 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees the Medicaid program, issued a warning last week that efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by cutting the reproductive health-care provider from the Medicaid program likely violates federal law.

“CMS has notified states who have taken action to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law,” Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement, reported The Hill.

“Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider,” Wakana said. “By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings.”

Two days after CMS issued its warning, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) directed the state Department of Human Services to terminate its agreements with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, part of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Hutchinson said in a statement Friday that the organization does not “represent the values” of the people of Arkansas.

“It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them,” Hutchinson said. “This includes their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.”

Hutchinson made the announcement after Rep. Nate Bell (I-Mena) sent a letter to the governor Wednesday requesting that the contract be terminated.

John Selig, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, sent a letter to Planned Parenthood informing the organization that the contract will be cancelled, effective in 30 days. The organization was contracted to provide nurse practitioner, pharmacy, and family planning services through the state’s Medicaid program.

Planned Parenthood has 30 days to file a written appeal.

Planned Parenthood received more than $51,000 in Medicaid payments from the state over the past year, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb told the Associated Press. None of the state funding was for payments for abortion services.

Angie Remington, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement that the governor’s actions were “political grandstanding” and the organization will continue to protect women’s access to health care in Arkansas.

“Singling out Planned Parenthood and attempting to bar a woman’s access to our legal, constitutionally-protected healthcare services is clearly a violation of the Medicaid statute that requires that a woman have her choice among qualified providers,” Remington said. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has warned officials in other states that it’s against the law to bar women from accessing care at Planned Parenthood because the organization provides safe, legal abortion. Similar laws have consistently been struck down.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) directed state agencies Friday to stop funneling federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement that she was “appalled” by the governor’s decision to make policy decisions based on reported allegations.

“We have never erroneously used any state or federal money outside the rules,” Galloway said, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

“The money he is talking about is for education,” Galloway added. “It’s federal money that we applied for through a [request for proposal] with the state health department to do evidence-based programs to reduce teen pregnancy. We celebrated those numbers going down about six months ago. Eliminating Planned Parenthood from participating in that is not the right move.”

The videos have sparked outrage from Republican legislators and anti-choice activists. Republican lawmakers in states around the country have called for investigations and hearings based on the series of deceptively edited videos, and inquiries have been announced in several states.

Investigations in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota have found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood.

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