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Gov. Bentley Settles Suit with Planned Parenthood Southeast

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, November 30, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley reached an agreement that will allow Planned Parenthood Southeast to continue to receive Alabama Medicaid dollars.
Planned Parenthood Southeast assured the Governor that it is in compliance with Alabama law, and does not participate in the practice of harvesting organs from unborn children and then selling them to tissue researchers for a profit, as some other Planned Parenthood affiliates were accused of in a series of investigative undercover videos prepared by a Pro-Life group. Governor Bentley announced on Monday the settlement which ends an ongoing lawsuit with Planned Parenthood Southeast.

robert-bentley2On August 6, 2015, Gov. Bentley terminated the State of Alabama’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood Southeast due to concerns raised by the Center for Medical Progress videos, which enraged Pro-Life groups.  Following the termination of their contract, Planned Parenthood sued the State arguing that the Governor had exceeded his authority.

On Wednesday, October 28, United States District Judge Myron Thompson issued a ruling ordering Alabama to restore Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.

In response to the Court’s order of preliminary injunction in the Planned Parenthood Southeast lawsuit, Governor Bentley said, “For the last two months, Alabama has denied payment to Planned Parenthood Southeast. The good news is that as a result of the strong opposition by Alabama and a few other states to the practice of accepting reimbursement for harvesting fetal organs, the national Planned Parenthood organization has changed course and will no longer continue this deplorable practice. I am disappointed, and vehemently disagree with the Court’s ruling today.  We are reviewing the opinion and will determine the next legal steps within the appeal period.”

On Monday the Governor agreed not to further his appeal of that the decision.

Planned Parenthood Southeast, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a joint statement following their legal victory.  They wrote, “The State of Alabama today backed down from costly efforts to bar patients from accessing care through Medicaid at Planned Parenthood health centers in the state – an effort which would have cost the state further unnecessary resources. Similar attempts to ban women from public programs have failed across the country in recent months…A settlement filed today with the state of Alabama comes just weeks after a federal judge blocked the state’s attempt to restrict patients’ ability to receive care from Planned Parenthood. Recent rulings in Arkansas, Utah and Louisiana found that states cannot block access to care at Planned Parenthood, and at the same time, politicians in Texas are seeking to do the very same thing. To date, two federal Courts of Appeals, the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, have blocked similar laws enacted in Indiana and Arizona, and the Supreme Court declined to review both of those rulings. In August, the state of Georgia also backed down on its attempt to prevent Planned Parenthood from using state labs to provide critical STD testing services.”

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The President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Staci Fox said, “Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring our patients have access to safe, quality, compassionate care. We are pleased the state has backed off of a costly and wasteful attempt to restrict care for Alabama women. Alabama women will continue to be able to access care at Planned Parenthood using their Medicaid coverage. The courts have made clear across the country that these are losing battles that ultimately waste resources and harm patients.”

American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said, “The State of Alabama should never have terminated Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid agreement in violation of federal law in the first place, but it’s a relief that the State has decided to reinstate it, which also prevents even more tax dollars from being wasted to defend the suit.”

The case was brought by Planned Parenthood Southeast and a patient plaintiff, who appears pseudonymously as “Jane Doe” because of her desire not to have the private and personal nature of her care to become public.

State Auditor Jim “Waste Cutter” Zeigler (R) objected to the terms of the agreement which left Planned Parenthood continuing to receive taxpayer dollars from the Medicaid program plus $51,000 from the state to reimburse the organization for their legal fees.

Auditor Zeigler said in his own statement, “Gov Bentley dropped the Planned Parenthood appeal, is paying them $51,000 extra of Alabama taxpayer money, and continues the contract with them. The state had only paid about $4,300 to Planned Parenthood this year but now is paying them an additional $51,000. This matter was badly mishandled, bungled. It ended up helping Planned Parenthood and costing Alabama taxpayers.”

Zeigler said, “The Governor’s attorneys should have identified and alleged a legal reason to cancel the contract.  They could have easily done this but instead gave no reason.  They invited failure by mishandling the entire matter.”

Planned Parenthood Southeast operates two facilities in Alabama, located in Birmingham and Mobile.
Planned Parenthood was represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Planned Parenthood Southeast filed suit to protect access to care for women in Alabama.

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On October 13, 2015, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, announced that all local affiliates of Planned Parenthood would stop receiving money for fetal organs.

Gov. Bentley said, “The national pressure from Alabama and other states led Planned Parenthood to change its practices and no longer engage in the despicable and inhumane practice of selling organs of unborn children.  I will always fight to protect the rights of the unborn. If any medical provider in Alabama engages in practices that are contrary to accepted standards in the future, we will use every means necessary and available to ensure that those practices end.”

Alabama Medicaid funding will resume in compliance with the Judge’s ruling. According to the Governor’s office the funding from Medicaid will specifically pay for routine gynecology exams and birth control methods for Medicaid recipients.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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