A Baton Rouge federal judge has temporarily blocked the state from ousting Planned Parenthood from Louisiana’s Medicaid program because such removal would deny medical care to poor and needy women who rely on the group’s clinics in the capital city and New Orleans.
In an order filed late Sunday, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles cited the “apparent fragility” of the state health department’s stated reasons for attempting to terminate Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Medicaid contracts in Louisiana.
The termination was scheduled to take effect Monday, but deGravelles halted it with a temporary restraining order that went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
The judge indicated he could extend his order while the rest of the case is litigated.
One of the state Department of Health and Hospitals’ reasons for trying to pull Planned Parenthood’s funding was videos that show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the future use of fetal tissue collected during abortions.
Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions in Louisiana.
DeGravelles said the “uncontested and unquestioned facts” are that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast serves 5,200 poor and needy women, and has “repeatedly been deemed a ‘competent’ provider by DHH.”
“The uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that PPGC ... is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities,” he wrote.
“Based on the record before it, it appears likely that (PPGC) will be able to prove that the attempted terminations against it are motivated and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it,” the judge added.
Mike Reed, a spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the administration plans to keep fighting to defund Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood hailed deGravelles’ ruling as a victory for access to care from Planned Parenthood clinics.
“It is shameful that Gov. Jindal is trying to score political points by blocking women’s access to critical health care,” Melissa Flournoy, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Louisiana state director, said Monday. “We will never stop fighting to provide health care services for the women and men in Louisiana.”
Planned Parenthood challenged in a lawsuit the state’s right to end the funding for cancer screenings, gynecology examinations and other health services.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the Louisiana case “was never about Planned Parenthood” but instead about politicians trying to dictate where women can go for their health care.
“The anti-abortion extremists and politicians behind these attacks are pushing a dangerous agenda far outside the mainstream,” she said.
Ben Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said his group is confident that ongoing investigations and court proceedings will ultimately lead to the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
“We applaud the Jindal administration for defunding Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast based on the millions they repaid in Medicaid fraud and also based on their own statements in the baby parts trafficking videos,” he said.