Arkansas Is The Latest State To Defund Planned Parenthood, But It May Not Be The Last

The saga over Planned Parenthood funds continues. On Friday, Arkansas became the fourth state to defund Planned Parenthood following the release of "sting" videos accusing the national family-planning organization of selling parts of fetuses through its fetal-tissue donation program. Although Planned Parenthood has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing, politicians ranging from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to 2016 GOP presidential candidates Dr. Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have been using the deceptively edited videos to leverage an attack campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is the leading provider of reproductive health care in the United States.

The news comes just days after the Department of Health and Human Services warned officials in Alabama and Louisiana that blocking Medicaid funding from their respective Planned Parenthood state affiliates is a violation of federal law. Legislators in New Hampshire also defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake sting footage, but the state is exempt from any federal consequences because it blocked state funding, not federal Medicaid funds.

In a statement on Friday, Hutchinson said he was canceling Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract with the state of Arkansas. Although Medicaid-funded abortions are currently prohibited under the federal Hyde Amendment — unless a state chooses to use its own funds to provide abortions — Planned Parenthood state affiliates receive Medicaid grants to subsidize other, non-abortion-related services, including contraception, breast cancer screenings, and STI testing.

"It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state," Hutchinson said in a statement. "Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them."

Planned Parenthood operates just two clinics in Arkansas — one in Little Rock, the state's capital, and one in Fayetteville. Both clinics state that they provide abortion services in addition to birth control, STI testing and treatment, and general health care.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called Hutchinson's decision to block Medicaid funds from the state's health clinics a symbol of a "dangerous political agenda." Laguens added in a statement sent to Bustle:

Earlier this year Governor Hutchinson signed six new abortion restrictions into law — and now he's taking aim at birth control, cancer screenings, and other care. ... Planned Parenthood will continue to fight on behalf of the people who count on us for high-quality health care across Arkansas.

Laguens is right: The Arkansas state legislature launched an assault on abortion rights this spring, passing six restrictions on abortion providers in just one month. These restrictions doubled the mandatory waiting period before an abortion, from 24 hours to 48 hours; changed the protocol for pill-induced abortions, forcing women to make at least three trips to the clinic; and barred judicial bypass from teenage victims of rape and incest.

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But Arkansas isn't the only state launching a campaign against Planned Parenthood. As previously mentioned, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Louisiana have eliminated funding from their respective Planned Parenthood clinics, with the latter two ending Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts with their states. Lawmakers in these states gave similar reasons to Hutchinson in Arkansas, claiming it was a moral choice to end relations with the family-planning organization.

“Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement announcing his decision last week. "It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state."

It's important to note that no Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana currently provide abortion services.

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In addition to Louisiana, Alabama, New Hampshire, and now, Arkansas, a handful of other states — most of which are controlled by Republicans — have expressed interest in defunding Planned Parenthood in various ways. In late July, legislators in Ohio introduced a bill that would strip state funding from Planned Parenthood. According to Cleveland.com, the measure would remove roughly $1.3 million in funds. Planned Parenthood currently runs 28 health clinics in Ohio, but just three of them provide abortion services.

The push to defund Planned Parenthood is also gaining momentum in Iowa, with Sen. Joni Ernst leading the charge. In an editorial for The Des Moines Register, published Friday, Ernst flaunted the legislation she introduced in the U.S. Senate that would remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood and redirect them to other clinics. That legislation failed to pass.

Legislators in Wisconsin are also working on eliminating federal Title X funding from Planned Parenthood. A bill introduced by anti-abortion state Rep. Andre Jacque would allow "Wisconsin Department of Health Services to apply for and prioritize the use of federal Title X preventive health services grant funds," essentially redirecting the roughly $3 million in Title X funds elsewhere.

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Yet blocking federal grants — specifically Medicaid funds — from going toward Planned Parenthood clinics may be against the law, according to HHS. In a statement this week, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) said, "Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider."

Although states can control their own funds, they are barred from limiting access to services provided under Medicaid, which includes family-planning services. A 2011 memo from CMS also explicitly explains that while states "have authority to exclude providers from participating in Medicaid under certain circumstances," they cannot "exclude providers from the program solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide." Essentially, state lawmakers can't discriminate against Planned Parenthood just because it provides abortion services.

If Planned Parenthood is found to have violated federal or state laws, then Medicaid funds can be withheld, according to CMS. But at this time, the family-planning organization is in the clear.