The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court on Wednesday, ruling that Louisiana cannot deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood clinics for non-abortion procedures.
After the defunding bill was pushed through the state legislature, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and three of its patients filed suit arguing that under federal law, women who receive Medicaid are entitled to select their healthcare provider. The three judge appeals panel rejected the state’s argument that Planned Parenthood was unqualified to provide such services.
“This victory is critically important for thousands of Louisianans across our state—people who deserve to have their health come before political agendas,” said Raegan Carter, Senior Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “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 far worse.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood in Gulf states such as Louisiana is a huge public health risk in the wake of the spreading Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control has said that access to family planning is one of the most important tools for combatting the Zika epidemic, which can be sexually transmitted and have devastating neurological effects on fetuses. Multiple bills put before Congress have attempted to make restricting Planned Parenthood funding a stipulation of the Zika research and prevention initiative.
Efforts to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood by Louisiana and 24 other states was amped up after the so-called Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released fraudulently made and deceptively edited videos of Planned Parenthood facilities and staff. Three Congressional committees and investigations in over a dozen states have found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, yet anti-abortion politicians continue to use these discredited videos to push their anti-woman agenda. In particular, the House Select Investigative Panel has yet to disband their investigation into abortion provider, recently asking for an additional $500,000 to continue its political witch hunt that has uncovered no new information but has served to intimidate and harass abortion providers and scientific researchers.