Federal Judge Kristine Baker heard arguments today from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland to make a class action for all its Medicaid patients in the lawsuit aimed at preventing the state from refusing to cover non-aboriton medical services at the organization’s two clinics in the state.
She’ll issue a ruling later. The judge has enjoined the state from stopping services to plaintiffs in the suit, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ordered. She said it was a violation of federal law guaranteeing that a woman have a choice of which doctor she sees. Such lawsuits have been successful in other states.
Statement from Suzanna de Baca, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland:
“Planned Parenthood is in court today as a step toward seeking expansion of the preliminary injunction that already protects access to birth control, cancer screenings and other care to our three patient co-plaintiffs.
“Our commitment to our patients has never wavered. We will continue to fight to protect access to care for all of our Medicaid patients, and we will continue to work with individual patients to help them meet their health care needs, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Statement from Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU Arkansas, co-counsel:
“Everyone deserves access to care and the opportunity to control their own reproductive health. The high-quality reproductive health care Planned Parenthood provides is vital to the communities they serve, especially here in Arkansas where nearly 1 in 5 people live below the federal poverty level.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is defending the cutoff of medical services through Planned Parenthood. The state argues the women have alternatives, though Planned Parenthood has shown that the state’s claim of abundant similar services was exaggerated.
Planned Parenthood serves some 3,300 people at its two clinics with family planning, health exams, cancer screenings and tests for disease. A significant proportion are covered by Medicaid. The Republican governor and legislature want to cripple Planned Parenthood by the fund cutoff because the organization also provides abortion. In Arkansas, it provides no clinical abortions, only a pill regiment used in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. The state has another law aimed at preventing that service. It is also being challenged in court.
By the way: Planned Parenthood nationally has sued the makers of undercover videos about use of fetal tissue in medical research that encouraged action against planned parenthood. The suit alleges fraud, law breaking and lies. The suit alleges an illegal conspiracy to block women’s access to legal abortions. The suit, brought under federal racketeering laws, alleges a criminal conspiracy against legal medical services.