NEW ORLEANS — Needy Louisiana women can continue to get Medicaid-funded, non-abortion services at Planned Parenthood facilities in the state under a ruling handed down Wednesday by a federal appeals court.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction that keeps the state from cutting off funding. That move began under former Gov. Bobby Jindal following the release of stealth videos that abortion opponents claimed showed Planned Parenthood officials outside Louisiana selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood denied the allegation and investigations have found no wrongdoing.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the group’s Louisiana affiliate, and three of its patients challenged the funding cutoff in federal court. They said the attempt to cut funding for the organization’s non-abortion-related services in Baton Rouge and New Orleans was politically motivated and would leave the women with no place to get needed cares.
District Judge John deGravelles in Baton Rouge blocked the state from defunding clinics, issuing a preliminary injunction pending a trial on the merits of the case.
Among Planned Parenthood’s arguments was that women who use its Medicaid-funded services have the right to choose the provider of such care under federal law. In upholding deGravelles’ injunction, the appeals court said Planned Parenthood and its clients would likely win at trial on that issue.
The three-judge appellate panel rejected several state arguments that Planned Parenthood was “unqualified” to provide the care.
“Because the Individual Plaintiffs would otherwise be denied both access to a much needed medical provider and the legal right to the qualified provider of their choice, we agree that they will almost certainly suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction,” Judge Jacques Wiener wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. The other members were judges Priscilla Owen and Edward Prado.
“This victory is critically important for thousands of Louisianans across our state — people who deserve to have their health come before political agendas,” Raegan Carter, director of public affaris for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said in a news release. “As a Louisianan and a woman of color, this is very personal. People of color in our community already face too many systemic barriers to care — and blocking care at Planned Parenthood would make it even worse.”
Planned Parenthood said similar defunding efforts have been undertaken in 24 states.
The issue isn’t over in Louisiana. Jindal, a Republican who was term-limited, left office in January but he was succeeded by John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat. Edwards pushed a bill through the last legislative session to block Planned Parenthood funding if the organization begins offering abortions in the state. Lawmakers passed it even though the Medicaid agency sent a letter to states saying that such efforts may be at odds with federal law.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jeff Landry, a first-term Republican who took over defense of the state’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, said late Wednesday that they are reviewing the ruling.