Appeals court denies Planned Parenthood request to rehear defunding decision

By Dave Andrusko

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

On Monday the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision that upheld Arkansas’s determination to discontinue Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.

The lawsuit brought by three Planned Parenthood Great Plains patients argued a full court review was necessary because the decision conflicts with the funding decisions of other appeals courts.

“It is important for the state to have the clear authority to terminate Medicaid providers who act in unethical ways and in violation of state policy,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “The decision early on to terminate Planned Parenthood as a provider was the right decision, and I am delighted with the decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in affirming the right of the State to take this action.”

Gov. Hutchinson ended the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood in 2015. Referring to what were then-six undercover videos brought to the public’s attention by the Center for Medical Progress, Gov. Hutchinson said, ‘It is apparent that after recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them.”

The August 16 ruling by the three-judge panel vacated U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s orders in 2015 and 2016 directing the state to continue paying for Planned Parenthood services for Medicaid recipients.

According to Hunter Field of ArkanasOnline, Bettina Brownstein, one of the attorneys representing the patients, said they were considering their next step. Field wrote

It remains unclear when Planned Parenthood could stop receiving Medicaid dollars in Arkansas. Amy Webb, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, said the 8th Circuit must issue a mandate to the district court.

“Once that happens, we will turn off the Medicaid provider number,” she said in an email.

The decision was only two pages long and did not explain why the court denied the request for a rehearing was denied.