Why Bobby Jindal's plan to defund Planned Parenthood failed

Louisiana is third state in recent weeks to attempt to reduce funding for Planned Parenthood. Why are federal judges blocking this move? 

Chris Keane/Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina on September 18, 2015.

A federal judge blocked Louisiana governor and GOP presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal’s recent order to defund Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), ruling that the present funding from Medicaid stay in place for two weeks while the state’s legal battles continue.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast operates nine health-care centers (seven in greater Houston, Texas and two in Louisiana) and the organization says they have provided preventative health care and education to the local communities through 16,472 patient visits.  

Lawyers for PPGC argued that Gov. Jindal’s campaign against the women’s health group is politically motivated – especially considering the Louisiana clinics do not actually provide abortions.

In the state of Louisiana, public funding for abortions is available only in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Instead, this local arm of Planned Parenthood focuses on services unrelated to abortion, such health screenings and birth control.

“No one is proposing to bar hospitals from receiving federal reimbursements for visits, treatments and procedures. Why should it be any different for Planned Parenthood?” the organization asked on their site.

And US District Judge John deGravelles agreed.

“Uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that PPGC does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities,” Judge deGravelles argues in his 59-page ruling. “Based on the record before it, it appears likely that plaintiff (Planned Parenthood) will be able to prove that the attempted terminations against it are motivated and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it.”

But Jindal’s defunding efforts in Louisiana are not a lone case. Battles between federal funding and state-specific ideology have recently bubbled up throughout the country. Planned Parenthood has accused governors of  "playing politics with health," – and multiple judges have thus far ruled in the organizations favor.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Utah to continue Planned Parenthood funding for local branches, after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tried to block $275,000 of state funds. And earlier this month a US district judge in Arkansas ordered the state to continue Planned Parenthood Medicaid payments after three women challenged Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s attempt to cut off all funding. 

"The programs carried out by plaintiff target at-risk individuals and the reduction of communicable diseases," US District Judge Clark Waddoups wrote in his argument for the Utah case. "These are strong public interests that outweigh the defendants' stated interests in defunding" Planned Parenthood.

Although defunding efforts in Louisiana, Utah, and Arkansas were denied, new attempts continue to unfold. Texas announced Monday that it was cutting off all Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood clinics, and a similar legal battle is expected to ensue.

For their part, Planned Parenthood's supporters have argued that the state of Louisiana needs more clinics, not funding cuts.

According to a 2014 United Health Foundation study, Louisiana ranked 48th among US states in the overall health of its residents. The state also ranked 44th for child poverty with 26.5 percent of children under the age of 18 living at or below the poverty threshold.  

Raegan Carter, director of external services for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, told the Associated Press that the clinics in question were reimbursed almost $730,000 for care to Medicaid patients and without this revenue from Medicaid, the Baton Rouge clinic would likely shut down

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