In a narrow decision, a federal panel just eliminated the right of Arkansas women on Medicaid to have Planned Parenthood treat them.

According to Reuters, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday in a 2-1 decision that women on Arkansas’ Medicaid program would not be able to seek treatment at the state’s Planned Parenthood facilities. The decision overturns a separate ruling by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson did not have the right to defund Planned Parenthood by denying Medicaid reimbursements for the nonprofit healthcare provider. Judge Baker initially struck down Hutchinson’s order with a preliminary injunction last September.

In the majority ruling, Judge Steven M. Colloton — who was appointed to his post by Republican President George W. Bush in 2003 — nitpicked at judicial nuance to poke a hole in the legal argument Planned Parenthood made, saying that the provision Planned Parenthood cited in federal Medicaid law didn’t unambiguously create the right for patients to choose any provider for Medicaid services.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by 8th Circuit Senior Judge Michael Melloy, who pointed out that the majority’s decision contradicts rulings by four separate federal appeals courts that the plaintiffs had the right to receive treatment under that specific provision.

In a public statement, Planned Parenthood Chief Medical Officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley said the organization’s struggle to provide services in Arkansas was “not over.”

“We will do everything in our power to protect our patients’ access to birth control cancer screenings, and other lifesaving care,” McDonald Mosley-stated.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by three Arkansas women challenging the order from Gov. Hutchinson’s office in August of 2015, which called for the state’s Department of Human Services to cut off its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood following the release of a controversial, heavily doctored video meant to suggest that Planned Parenthood — which devotes just three percent of its resources to abortion services — sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood, for its part, responded to the video by saying it only devotes fetal tissue at the request of its patients, and never sells it, and investigations by 12 states failed to find evidence of selling fetal tissue.

Graphic from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 annual report

It’s also worth noting that in March of 2017, anti-abortion activists David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt, who made the video, were indicted on 15 felony charges by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Daleiden and Merritt created a fictitious company to gain entry to Planned Parenthood facilities and conferences featuring abortion providers, and then surreptitiously recorded their conversations with various subjects, none of whom were told they were being recorded.

As CNN reported, California state law requires that there be two-party consent in any recording for it to be legal. As of this writing, the charges against Daleiden and Merritt are still active.


Jordan Shaw is a New Jersey-based writer and commentator specializing in national and state government issues for Grit Post. When he’s not writing, you can find him volunteering in Camden, New Jersey, or hiking the Wissahickon Valley Park.

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