HHS Pushes Back On States Defunding Planned Parenthood Over Videos

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States that have sought to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion “sting” video campaign have been warned by the Obama administration that efforts to block such funding may not be legal, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

According to the Journal, the Department of Health and Human Services contacted state officials in Alabama and Louisiana earlier this month to express concern about that the states’ moves to end their Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood over the videos. Medicaid recipients can use funds for preventative services from the organization like cancer screenings, but federal funding for abortions in most cases is already prohibited by law.

Under HHS guidance released in 2011, states cannot block Medicaid funding to providers on the basis of the other services offered, the Wall Street Journal said, and that memo was sent to state officials after their announcements.

State officials told the Journal that they were allowed to end the contracts. Although courts have sided with Planned Parenthood in past legal battles over Medicaid funding, anti-abortion activists countered to the Journal that in this case, states are blocking the funding over criminal activity, which is permitted by the 2011 memo.

Backers of the “sting” videos — which a group going by the name ‘Center for Medical Progress’ began releasing last month — say they show that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from the donation of aborted fetus tissue to researchers. The reproductive health organization argues the videos are heavily edited and the only fees charged for the tissues are to reimburse the extra procurement costs, as allowed by the law.

Eleven states have opened investigations into Planned Parenthood’s operations (two of which have already closed their investigations after finding no evidence of wrong doing), as have national lawmakers, who are currently weighing defunding Planned Parenthood on a national level.

In addition to Louisiana (where the Planned Parenthood clinics do not offer abortion) and Alabama, New Hampshire has also sought to block Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funds, according to The Journal.

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