The state’s impending removal of Planned Parenthood from Louisiana’s Medicaid program should be blocked because the move has nothing to do with the organization’s qualifications and everything to do with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s animosity toward the group, a Planned Parenthood attorney told a Baton Rouge federal judge Friday.
“It is unconstitutional to terminate funding based on that kind of animus,” Carrie Flaxman, who represents Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and several of its patients, argued to U.S. District Judge John deGravelles during an unusual hearing conducted over the telephone and piped into the courtroom because the judge was out of state.
Jimmy Faircloth, an attorney for the state Department of Health and Hospitals and DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert, accused Planned Parenthood of grandstanding and told deGravelles there is no evidence of political animus against the group in this case or that the politically-charged organization is being singled out.
Barring court intervention, Louisiana’s termination of the Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans will take effect Monday.
Faircloth urged deGravelles to stay on the sidelines because Planned Parenthood has until Monday to ask an administrative law judge to review Kliebert’s decision to cancel the contracts.
“The court should not decide an issue with a contingency hanging out there,” Faircloth argued. “This issue is not ripe for adjudication. The court should allow this process to play itself out.”
Flaxman told the judge that Planned Parenthood has no intention of asking a state hearing officer to review Kliebert’s decision.
“Our plan is to proceed in federal court,” she said.
The judge took Friday’s arguments under advisement and indicated he would issue a ruling over the weekend.
Planned Parenthood sued Louisiana in federal court after the state announced it was terminating the Medicaid provider agreements with the group’s clinics without giving a reason.
But after sharp questioning by deGravelles during a Sept. 2 hearing, the state announced it was blocking Planned Parenthood’s clinics “for cause” — citing Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s $4.3 million settlement of false claims allegations in Texas.
Flaxman argued Friday that Louisiana has known for some time about the settlement two years ago, and that Planned Parenthood settled the case without any admission of liability.
Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions in Louisiana.
During the Sept. 2 hearing, DHH attorney Stephen Russo referenced hidden-camera videos that allegedly show officials of the national clinics discussing selling tissue from aborted fetuses — allegations Planned Parenthood denies.
“It seems like this is all about the videotapes,” deGravelles stated during Friday’s hearing, suggesting the state may have shot first and asked questions later.
“The Secretary has not made a decision based on these videotapes,” Faircloth insisted.
Flaxman was asked directly by deGravelles whether Planned Parenthood performs abortions in Louisiana. Her answer was no. She also told the judge that Planned Parenthood has not been notified by the state that the group is not acting competently or professionally in Louisiana.