LITTLE ROCK—A federal appeals court said Monday it won't reconsider a ruling that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, setting up a potential showdown over defunding efforts by conservative states over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by three Planned Parenthood Great Plains patients to reconsider a three-judge panel's decision upholding the state's defunding decision. The panel in August vacated a federal judge's preliminary injunction that prevented Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients in the state.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state's Medicaid contract with the group in 2015.
Planned Parenthood said a review by the full court was needed because the panel's ruling conflicts with four other appeals court decisions. Planned Parenthood did not say whether it was weighing taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Planned Parenthood Great Plains is committed to ensuring all patients in Arkansas retain the right to choose their provider, no matter their socioeconomic status,"
Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement. "While we evaluate all of our legal options and next steps, PPGP will keep fighting for our patients in Little Rock and Fayetteville to have access to critical services."
The court's two-page order did not elaborate on the reason for the denial. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker initially ordered the state to continue the payments to three patients who had sued over the move and later expanded that order to anyone who seeks or wants to obtain services from the organization's health centers in Arkansas. The three-judge panel reversing that decision in August ruled the unnamed patients suing the state did not have the right to challenge the defunding decision.
"Attorney General (Leslie) Rutledge is pleased with the court's decision to deny the request for rehearing, which reaffirms that Planned Parenthood and the three patients it recruited could not contest in federal court Arkansas's determination that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program," Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said in an email.
The ruling doesn't take effect until the court issues its mandate in the case in about one to two weeks. The state has said Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds in the fiscal year before Hutchinson's decision to terminate the contract. None of the money paid for abortions. Planned Parenthood operates health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock.
Republican lawmakers and governors around the country targeted the organization after several videos were released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. The center said the videos showed that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood said the videos were heavily edited and denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs. A Texas grand jury that looked into the videos cleared Planned Parenthood of misusing fetal tissue.