On Thursday, Planned Parenthood in Mississippi claimed a significant victory when the federal judge in their lawsuit sided with them and blocked a Mississippi law that banned the state’s Medicaid program from providing coverage to health care providers that offer abortions.
The law was signed earlier this year by the governor in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood and became effective on July 1. It was in May that Mississippi joined the list of states that had revoked taxpayer funds from going to Planned Parenthood after allegations surfaced claiming the provider had been caught selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. The women’s health provider fought back, however, and filed their own lawsuit against the law in Mid-June. It is a fight many women around the country were in support of.
The work of the two Planned Parenthood affiliates who took the bold step paid off on Thursday when U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III gave his decision in favor of the healthcare providers. Philly.com wrote that Jordan’s decision was influenced by a Sept. 14 ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which they upheld an injunction against a similar law in Louisiana. The circuit handles appeals from the state of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
When handing down his ruling, Jordan’s two-page order said that every court which has considered similar laws has found that they were a violation of the “free-choice-of-provider” provision of federal law since Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor, is funded by federal, as well as state dollars.
Planned Parenthood argued successfully that the implementation of the law would unconstitutionally limit the rights of all patients to be able to choose the healthcare provider of their choice, and the defunding would have meant that low-income patients would suffer from lack of service. Reuters reported that following the favorable ruling, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards gave a statement praising the judge’s decision.
“Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their health care. Planned Parenthood will fight for our patients at every turn.”
The main argument put forward by many proponents of Planned Parenthood is that the laws defunding the healthcare provider are centered on an objection to abortion, but not all of the locations actually offer the procedure. The two affiliates responsible for filing the Mississippi lawsuit were previously only eligible for Medicaid payments to provide services such as birth control and cancer screenings. Neither of them offers abortions in Mississippi, but it seems that a Planned Parenthood in the Greater Memphis Region does offer abortions to women at a clinic in Memphis, Tennessee. Planned Parenthood Southeast also said that abortions are not offered in their clinic at Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but they are available at clinics in Alabama and Georgia.
In April, a letter had been sent to Medicaid agencies in all 50 states from the director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reminding their officials that funding to medical providers such as Planned Parenthood can’t be cut simply because the providers might also offer abortion services. However, Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant chose to ignore the federal warning and still implemented the law forbidding Mississippi Medicaid from spending money on a facility if it provides the constitutionally protected service of abortions, elective or otherwise, and also if it was affiliated with any entity which provides abortions.
For years prior, the Mississippi law had already banned the use of tax dollars to pay for the majority of abortion cases.
After hearing the ruling, Governor Bryant expressed his disappointment and used Facebook as a medium to release a statement.
“I believe the law was the right thing to do and I will continue to stand with the legislature and people of Mississippi who do not want their hard-earned money going to the largest abortion provider in the nation.”
Since July of 2015, Planned Parenthood has had to file numerous suits against states seeking to block funding from the clinics, the Mississippi lawsuit was number 17.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock]