Federal court: Arkansas can block Planned Parenthood money

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group.

In a 2-1 ruling, an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel vacated preliminary injunctions a federal judge issued preventing the state from suspending any Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients from Planned Parenthood. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state’s Medicaid contract with the organization in 2015 over the videos.

The court ruled the patients did not have the right to challenge the defunding decision.

“Under the Jane Does’ vision, while the provider is litigating its qualifications in the state courts, or after the provider unsuccessfully appeals a determination that it is not qualified, individual patients separately could litigate or relitigate the qualifications of the provider in federal court,” the court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker initially ordered the state to continue the payments to three patients who had sued over the move and later expanded that order to anyone who seeks or wants to obtain services from the organization’s health centers in Arkansas.

The state has said Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds in the fiscal year before Hutchinson’s decision to terminate the contract. None of the money paid for abortions.

Republican lawmakers and governors around the country targeted the organization after several videos were released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. The center said the videos showed that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood said the videos were heavily edited and denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs.

In a dissenting opinion to Wednesday’s ruling, Judge Michael Melloy noted that several other federal appeals courts have ruled the opposite way on defunding.