By Brian Lyman
Gov. Robert Bentley Thursday said he was moving to end Medicaid's contracts with Planned Parenthood, following the release of videos showing members of the organization discussing the sales of fetal parts.
"As a doctor and Alabama's governor, the issue of human life, from conception to birth and beyond, is extremely important," Bentley said in a statement. "I respect human life and do not want Alabama to be associated with an organization that does not."
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Southeast CEO Staci Fox said the organization was disappointed Bentley had been "distracted by a deceptive attack."
"It means taking away health care services for the thousands of women, men and young people who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers each year for basic health care," the statement said. "Just two days ago, Bentley himself was quoted as saying that cuts to Medicaid affect real people -- like the Alabamians who will be cut off from care by this decision."
Fox's statement said Planned Parenthood generally provides "lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, birth control options, and, STD testing and treatment." According to the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the state paid $4,351.37 to Planned Parenthood Southeast in FY 2014 and 2015 for services, mainly IUDs and contraception. Robin Rawls, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, said Thursday the agency has a list of about 2,500 locations where family planning services can be reached.
In a letter to Fox dated Aug. 6, Bentley said the state would end the contracts within 15 days of the organization's receipt of the letter. Planned Parenthood has 60 days to appeal the decision.
In videos released by anti-abortion activists over the last several weeks, Planned Parenthood staffers discussed the price of parts of fetuses. The organization, which says the program is a donation program for medical research, says it broke no law and does not profit from the practice
Planned Parenthood Southeast said in a statement earlier on Thursday that it does not operate a donation program in Alabama. Alabama Department of Public Health abortion clinic regulations do not provide for the donation of fetal tissue for research.
Planned Parenthood Southeast provides abortion services at clinics in Birmingham and Mobile. Medicaid does not pay for abortions except in the case of rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in jeopardy.
Fox's statement said Bentley's decision went against federal court rulings forbidding states from discriminating against abortion providers in Medicaid programs. However, it did not say if the organization was considering legal action. A follow-up email to Helen Cox, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Southeast, was not immediately returned Thursday evening.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this week ended that state's contract with Planned Parenthood.
(c)2015 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)