Another victory for women’s health care from the federal court in Arkansas against Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration effort to punish Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
Federal Judge Kristine Baker has made a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against the state of Arkansas a class action, as courts in other states have done when states tried to cut off Medicaid funding for basic medical services because PP also provides abortions, but not with government support. PP has two clinics in Arkansa. They provide a wide range of health services, but also provide pharmaceutical abortions — pills that cause a miscarriage in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
Hutchinson ordered an end to all funding and PP sued. Judge Baker earlier had said the state couldn’t stop services for named plaintiffs. Today’s order significantly expands the reach of the ruling. The state will undoubtedly appeal, as Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has done consistently on a range of Republican conservative social agenda items, even against tall odds, such as sefforts to unconstitutionally restrict abortion.
The ACLU, which is backing the lawsuit with Planned Parenthood, said the ruling means protection of 4,000 Medicaid patients.
“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. Every person deserves access to quality, affordable health care from the provider they know and trust, and today, the court recognized that,” said Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Heartland. “For our patients, it’s not about politics. It’s about their health, and about going to the health care provider they know and trust. Governor Hutchinson has no business telling Arkansas women where they can and cannot go for essential care.”
“Everyone deserves access to care and the opportunity to control their own reproductive health,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “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.”
Today’s ruling extends the previously issued preliminary injunction, which included only the three individual co-plaintiffs, to apply to all Medicaid patients seeking care at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Arkansas. The injunction will remain in place while the case proceeds.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance that made it clear states couldn’t block Planned Parenthood funding because of political opposition to abortion, which remains legal in the U.S. Arkansas is among the Republican-dominated states that has fought the rule.