Planned Parenthood on Tuesday asked a federal court to block enforcement of an order by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal that would bar patients from receiving medical care through the organization using Medicaid.
Officials with the group, along with three patients who are co-plaintiffs in the case, allege that Jindal’s order is illegal and will cut off a vital service used by 5,200 Louisianans.
But Jindal administration officials stood firm, saying the lawsuit is without merit. “Planned Parenthood is flailing,” Mike Reed, a spokesman for Jindal, who is running for president, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The dispute offers a glimpse of what may come in the intensifying fight over Planned Parenthood, a 75-year-old health care organization and abortion provider that found itself at the center of renewed controversy this summer after an anti-abortion group released a series of undercover videos purporting to prove that the organization sells fetal parts to research companies, among other allegedly illegal practices.
Planned Parenthood has denied the accusation, saying it does not profit from its tissue donation program, which is voluntary for women and supports important research. Group officials have accused the Center for Medical Progress, a little-known group behind the videos, of mounting a misleading campaign to help achieve their anti-abortion agenda.
The videos have enraged socially conservative activists, who sustained a loss earlier this summer when the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationally but have found fresh energy in seeking to cut off taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood. The videos have played prominently in the Republican presidential primary, with the candidates expressing outrage and pledging to defund the organization.
Several states, including Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire and Louisiana, have taken steps to turn off taxpayer funding for the group. The money is not permitted to go toward abortion care except in rare cases, but critics say the videos suggest that the group is corrupt and brutal, and is therefore undeserving of the funds.
A number of states have also mounted investigations into the group’s practices, but so far, those investigations have not yielded evidence of wrongdoing.
Critics of the group are not yet done. Four congressional investigations have been initiated into Planned Parenthood as a result of the videos. And more states are likely to consider following in Louisiana’s footsteps by ending their Medicaid contracts with the group.
It is unclear whether such actions will hold water legally. Earlier this month, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department notified at least three states that federal law prohibits them from withholding Medicaid funds for use at qualified health care providers. States that remain in violation risk losing all their money from Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor and disabled.
Planned Parenthood officials on Tuesday accused Louisiana of putting women’s health at risk.
“When Governor Jindal and other politicians try to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding to score political points, what they’re actually doing is ensuring that some women’s cancer will get worse before it’s caught and that HIV and other infections will spread,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Supporters of Jindal’s move say there are plenty of other places for women to go for cancer detection and HIV services outside of the two Planned Parenthood health centers in Louisiana. And in his statement, Reed said Louisiana was well within its rights to end its contract with Planned Parenthood.
“The Medicaid provider contract between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Planned Parenthood gives either party the right to cancel the contract at will with a 30-day notice,” he said. “Governor Jindal and DHH chose to exercise that right to cancel.”
The suit came as an eighth undercover video was released by the Center for Medical Progress.