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Federal Court Blocks Arkansas From Defunding Planned Parenthood

Teddy Wilson

“This is a win for the Arkansans who rely on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for birth control, cancer screenings, and other essential health care,” said Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “Every person deserves access to quality, affordable health care from the provider they know and trust, and today, the court recognized that.”

A federal judge on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Arkansas’ move to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds.

U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker blocked the Arkansas Department of Health Services (ADHS) from suspending Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for services rendered to Medicaid.

The “denial of Medicaid patient’s free choice of provider is irreparable harm,” Baker wrote in the ruling. That “reduced access to health care, as a result of a state statute restricting access to Medicaid in violation of federal regulations” constitutes irreparable harm, Baker wrote. 

Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement that Thursday’s ruling protects the rights of people with low incomes to access reproductive health-care services.

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“This is a win for the Arkansans who rely on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for birth control, cancer screenings, and other essential health care,” de Baca said. “Every person deserves access to quality, affordable health care from the provider they know and trust, and today, the court recognized that.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland operates two health-care clinics in Arkansas, one in Little Rock and one in Fayetteville.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in August 2015 ordered the ADHS to terminate Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider contract, despite the Obama administration’s warning that attempting to defund Planned Parenthood by banning the organization from receiving state Medicaid funds violated federal law.

Hutchinson justified his directive to defund Planned Parenthood by citing a series of deceptively edited videos published by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress, which worked closely with Republican lawmakers across the country in attacking Planned Parenthood funding. 

Baker issued a temporary restraining order in December in response to a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that Planned Parenthood is essential to ensuring that residents can access health-care services in a state that has such significant public health challenges.

“The high-quality reproductive health care Planned Parenthood provides is vital to the communities they serve, especially here in Arkansas which has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, contributing to the fact that nearly 1 in 5 people live below the federal poverty level,” Sklar said.

Judd Deere, spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, told the Arkansas News that Rutledge is “disappointed” with the judge’s ruling.

“Her order unfortunately allows Planned Parenthood to continue to use its patients to pad its bottom line at taxpayers’ expense,” Deere said. “Thankfully, the ultimate issues in this case will be decided by the Court of Appeals.”

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