Planned Parenthood slaps state over impending payment law

Print More

Regional Planned Parenthood groups and a Jane Doe client sued Mississippi’s Medicaid director on Wednesday to head off implementation of a new state law halting payments to certain women’s health service providers.

In the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi, the action seeks to “vindicate rights” afforded by federal Medicaid statutes as well as the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

David J. Dzielak, the state’s Medicaid executive director, is sued in his official capacity. His office did not respond to a call for comment shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

Medicaid cannot pay for abortions or abortion-related services in Mississippi, so the bill affects payments for birth control services.

State Medicaid reports show the state spent about $400 on Planned Parenthood clinic services in Mississippi the past three fiscal years.

The Planned Parenthood action targets the new law from Senate Bill 2238, which it claims disqualifies for state Medicaid funds any entity that performs abortions, except in “extremely narrowly defined circumstances.”

The lawsuit also claims the impending law will “cause irreparable harm” and prevent Planned Parenthood’s patients, including Jane Doe, from getting other services through Medicaid from “the qualified, willing provider” of their choice. The law takes effect July 1, unless court action rules otherwise.

Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc., the lead plaintiff, does not provide abortions in Mississippi but does in Alabama and Georgia. Its co-plaintiff is Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region Inc., which serves Mississippi clients who live near Memphis.

Both entities work with Medicaid to provide low-income women with services such as physical exams, contraception and counseling, various screenings and pregnancy tests. The Memphis group also provides abortions.

The Legislature passed SB 2238 after a national uproar over videos allegedly showing national Planned Parenthood personnel talking about the value of fetal body parts and other issues.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit follows four other lawsuits aimed at overturning another state law due to take effect July 1, House Bill 1523, aimed at immunizing persons with “sincerely held religious beliefs” from serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender customers.