Federal Judge Blocks Alabama From Defunding Planned Parenthood

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images/AFP
File Photo: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images/AFP

A federal judge is temporarily blocking Alabama from terminating its Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, in the wake of a series of videos exposing the abortion business’ apparent practice of harvesting the organs of unborn babies for sale on the open market.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled Alabama must restore Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood Southeast (PPSE), the Associated Press reports. In August, several days after Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced he would terminate the organization’s federal funding in his state, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit – along with an individual identified as “Jane Doe” who is a recipient of Medicaid and receives her birth control at one of their clinics.

Thompson said in his opinion that Alabama had not provided a legal reason to terminate Planned Parenthood’s funding and that the state’s action likely violated the federal Medicaid Act that restricts a state’s ability to block family planning providers for reasons unrelated to quality of care.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for quality, compassionate affordable health care,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, which has clinics in Birmingham and Mobile. “It’s outrageous that Governor Bentley is trying to take care away from women and families in our communities who need it the most.”

Bentley said in August that his state is not in violation of federal law in terminating its Medicaid contract with the abortion business since the contract gives either party the right to cancel at will with 15 days’ notice. Later, Bentley said the videos exposed the organization’s “deplorable practices,” but Thompson said in his ruling that the videos did not depict, or involve, the Planned Parenthood Southeast clinics in Alabama.

Nevertheless, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) announced her organization will stop accepting payments for the body parts of unborn babies.

The Obama administration – a close ally of Planned Parenthood – has threatened states attempting to defund the nation’s largest provider of abortions with potential violation of federal law and, ultimately, the complete cut-off of Medicaid funds to those states.

In a guidance document from Health and Human Services in 2011, the Obama administration said states are not allowed to exclude providers from Medicaid solely on the basis of the types of services they offer. The guidance, however, also says that states can exclude providers from Medicaid funding if their engagement in certain criminal acts is proven, a provision that many believe is the case with the videos of Planned Parenthood’s top medical personnel discussing the sale of aborted baby organs and body parts.

“I am disappointed, and vehemently disagree with the Court’s ruling today,” Bentley said in a statement. “We are reviewing the opinion and will determine the next legal steps within the appeal period.”

Lawyers for the state argued the videos raised concerns that abortion methods might be altered to obtain the best quality tissue, instead of what it is best for the patient.

In the most recent video produced by Center for Medical Progress, a Planned Parenthood abortionist in Texas admits she alters the position of the baby during an abortion in order to be able to harvest an intact head for human organ procurement.

Thompson reportedly rejected that argument, however, stating it was “beside the point” because the two Alabama clinics do not participate in the fetal tissue donation program.

“The parties do not dispute that no employee or representative of Planned Parenthood Southeast is depicted in these videos and that PPSE does not participate in fetal-tissue donation, and never has,” Thompson said.

Federal judges have largely taken Planned Parenthood’s side against states that have attempted to defund the organization. Louisiana and Utah remain in legal battles with Planned Parenthood, but judges have ordered these states to continue funding the organization.

In Arkansas, a judge directed the state to continue to provide Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood and three “Jane Does” who joined the group in the suit. Planned Parenthood is seeking to expand the order to include all Medicaid recipients in the state.


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