By Brian Lyman
Planned Parenthood Southeast filed a lawsuit against Gov. Robert Bentley Friday, saying his recent decision to cancel Medicaid contracts with the organization violated federal law.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Southeast CEO Staci Fox said Alabama officials were "hell-bent on ending a woman's ability to make her own deeply personal and private health decisions."
"Governor Bentley is trying to dictate where a woman can go for contraception and other preventive care if she's enrolled in Medicaid," the statement said. "Meanwhile, Alabama is dealing with some of the nation's worst health outcomes, and restricting access to providers will do nothing to help the urgent problems we face."
Bentley canceled Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood on Aug. 6, after videos released by an anti-abortion group, which claimed the video showed Planned Parenthood staffers discussing the sale of fetuses and fetal parts. In a statement, the governor called the practices "deplorable."
"I respect human life and do not want Alabama to be associated with an organization that does not," the governor said in a statement last week.
Planned Parenthood says it does not sell fetal tissue, and that the program discussed is a donation program; PPSE's chapters in Alabama and Georgia do not participate. The organization says the videos were edited to be misleading. Fusion GPS, a private investigative firm hired by Planned Parenthood to analyze the first four videos released, said there were "substantive omissions" in the videos that would not allow them to hold up as evidence in a court of law.
A message was left in Bentley's office Friday morning. The lawsuit asks the court to block the governor's action. Planned Parenthood sued Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this week over the cancellation of Medicaid contracts there.
The state paid Planned Parenthood $4,453 in FY 2013 and 2014, for birth control services and cancer and STD screenings. The organization provides abortion services at its clinics in Birmingham and Mobile offices, but Medicaid only pays for abortion in the case of rape or incest, or when a mother's life is in danger.
The lawsuit argues that federal law does not allow a state to cancel services with a qualified health care provider without adequate justification. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) warned the state earlier this month that the moves could violate federal law.
"Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider," a statement from HHS said. "By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings."
The lawsuit said Bentley's decision to cancel the contracts due to the videos was unjustified.
"Defendant's actions were taken without regard to the quality of the medical care provided by PPSE to Medicaid patients, and in direct retaliation for PPSE's provision of abortion services and its affiliation with Planned Parenthood," the lawsuit said.
(c)2015 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)