State Rep. Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), speaking today at a press conference called by the Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice to praise the work of Planned Parenthood, said she feared that “we forget how critical women’s health is to families in Arkansas,” and said she wanted to be a voice for those “forgotten women.”

Arkansas, Flowers said, is “rife with inequities in minority and rural health,” and she told a story about a friend who, as a teen-ager whose mother was dead, rode her bike to a Planned Parenthood clinic to get advice about birth control.  “She felt respected and she felt informed” at the Planned Parenthood clinic, and all she had to pay was $10. 


Karen Musick, director of the ACRJ, which held the press conference at the state Capitol to respond to Gov. Hutchinson’s decision to withhold Medicaid reimbursements from Planned Parenthood, called the work of the family planning agency “vital.” Speakers, many carrying pink signs saying “Stand with Planned Parenthood,” cited Arkansas’s abysmal health statistics, including its No. 1 ranking in teen pregnancies and its overall health ranking at 48th.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences graduate student Rachel Hendricks Hendrix said recent claims that Planned Parenthood profited from sales of fetal tissue run “counter to facts and counter to science” and that when she came to Little Rock she and her husband chose to use Planned Parenthood, which she called a “a safe place” that they could rely on “to take control of our reproductive future.” 


Addressing the videos made surreptitiously of a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the use of fetal tissue, Musick said she’d seen them for herself and decided that they were “a setup” to destroy Planned Parenthood and “showed nothing wrong, in my personal opinion.”

Ashley Wright, a spokesperson for the Arkansas chapter of Planned Parenthood, who was attending the press conference, said the Arkansas chapter has not made a formal decision on whether to sue the state. Planned Parenthood in Louisiana has sued over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision; reliable sources say the Arkansas chapter will sue. 


Wright noted that under federal law, Medicaid beneficiaries may go to the qualified doctor of their choice, and Medicaid rules say states can’t withhold Medicaid dollars because providers also offer abortion services. 

Another speaker, Sarah Scanlon, said she needed a doctor while campaigning in Ohio in 2006 and chose Planned Parenthood because she felt comfortable with the organization. The clinic referred her to a doctor because of her condition, which required surgery. “Had not Planned Parenthood been there I don’t know how I would be.” Scanlon said she hopes her 4-year-old daughter will have the same services she’s been able to have when the little girl grows up.

Retired Rabbi Gene Levy took to task persons who he said define life as from conception to birth, rather than considering the health and welfare of the newborn and the mother, which got a rise out of Rep. Flowers, who rose to say that she wanted to avoid politicizing issues concerning women’s health. 

Also speaking was United Methodist Rev. Stephen Copley, who said he supported Planned Parenthood as a person of faith concerned “for those at the bottom of our society” who need the Medicaid assistance to get their health care needs met.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Wright said the organization has 30 days from the withdrawal of funds — until Sept. 14 — to file suit. However, our sources are confident a lawsuit will be filed in Arkansas, as has been filed in Louisiana.