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Judge: Arkansas Must Fund Some Planned Parenthood Benefits

2 min read

LITTLE ROCK – A federal judge on Friday said Arkansas must pay Planned Parenthood for Medicaid services to three women while she considers a lawsuit challenging the state’s decision to cut off funding over secretly recorded videos by an anti-abortion group.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to pay for the services for three unnamed women, referred to in the suit as Jane Does, challenging the contract’s termination. Baker last month reinstated the contract for all Planned Parenthood for two weeks, and that order was set to expire late Friday afternoon.

“At this stage of the proceedings, the court finds that the threat of irreparable harm to the Jane Does, and the public interest, outweighs the immediate interests and potential injuries to (the state),” Baker wrote.

Baker’s order did not appear to apply to other Medicaid patients using Planned Parenthood, and it was unclear whether the state planned to move forward with the contract termination late Friday.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated the state’s contract in August over the videos, and Planned Parenthood sued days before the cancellation would have taken effect last month.

The state says Planned Parenthood received more than $51,000 in Medicaid payments in Arkansas over the past fiscal year for family planning and gynecological services. None of the money went toward abortions.

Hutchinson earlier this year signed into law a measure prohibiting public funding to abortion providers and entities that refer women to abortion providers, a move aimed at blocking any money to Planned Parenthood. But the new law didn’t apply to Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood had previously received money for sex education funding.

In Baker’s order, she ruled that Planned Parenthood didn’t have standing in the lawsuit since the three women were plaintiffs in the case. She also ruled that the women were suing the state as individuals and not on behalf of other women, noting there had not been a request to make the lawsuit a class-action case.

Republicans around the country have targeted Planned Parenthood 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 has said the organization receives legal payment only for the cost of the procedure and requires a mother’s consent before the tissue is given to researchers.

Arkansas is among several states that have moved to block Medicaid funding because of the videos. Planned Parenthood has filed similar lawsuits in Utah, Louisiana and Alabama challenging the defunding moves. The U.S. Justice Department has argued that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to cut off Medicaid funds to the group appeared to violate federal law.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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