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Obama officials warn states about cutting Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

This post has been updated.

The Obama administration on Tuesday warned officials in all 50 states that actions to end Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may be out of compliance with federal law.

Ten states have taken action or recently passed legislation to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood after antiabortion activists released covertly filmed video in the summer purporting to show that the women’s health organization and abortion provider illegally sold fetal tissue for a profit. Planned Parenthood supporters have criticized the videos as deceptively edited, and multiple state investigations have turned up no wrongdoing on the part of the organization.

The 10 states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

The last abortion clinic in south Texas is under attack, legally speaking. (Video: Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

The Medicaid defunding is part of a broader set of actions that have been taken by 24 states against Planned Parenthood since July, advocates said. In recent months, courts have blocked efforts to restrict access to care at Planned Parenthood in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that in recent months, “These political attacks on our patients have gone from a simmer to full rolling boil.”

She added: “What they couldn’t do in Congress, they’re now trying to do state by state, and jeopardizing care for more than half a million people.”

Federal health officials said the letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is being sent to all state Medicaid offices to clarify that terminating certain providers from Medicaid is only justifiable if those providers are unable to perform covered medical services or can’t bill for those services. The guidance emphasizes that states cannot target providers for impermissible reasons and are required to treat similar types of providers equitably.

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“CMS is sending a letter to all states to ensure they have a clear understanding of their obligation to follow longstanding Medicaid law guaranteeing that beneficiaries have the right to receive covered services, including family planning services, from any qualified and willing provider of their choice,” according to Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the federal Health and Human Services department.

CMS has communicated with the individual state Medicaid offices in the past, but this is the first time the agency has warned all the states collectively, officials said.

Federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from being spent on abortion services except in extraordinary circumstances, such as when the woman’s life is in danger, or in cases of rape or incest.

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