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A federal judge will hear arguments at 2 p.m. Thursday on Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction to stop the state from terminating its Medicaid contract with the health care organization.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provides family planning and preventive health services in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit Friday in Little Rock over the Arkansas Department of Human Services' cancellation of the contract at the order of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The lawsuit alleges that the state has violated the Medicaid Act, as well as the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee free speech and equal protection.

Human Services Director John Selig notified Planned Parenthood on Aug. 14 that the department was terminating the organization's Medicaid provider agreement in 30 days.

Hutchinson issued a new release the same day saying he had directed the Human Services Department to terminate the agreement because "it is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and [that] Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them."

The "revelations," the nonprofit's lawsuit notes, appear to concern "heavily edited and misleading videos that have been released by opponents of Planned Parenthood, making claims about other Planned Parenthood providers' abortion practices in other states."

The clips include conversations with Planned Parenthood executives, doctors and staff members in other states talking about how much money the organization would receive for providing various fetal body parts for medical research.

Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood in Arkansas was set to expire Sunday -- two days after the lawsuit was filed.

Unless U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker grants a preliminary injunction, the lawsuit contends, the organization won't be able to continue providing "basic and preventive health care services to the women, men and teens who depend on that care," causing "significant and irreparable harm" to Medicaid patients.

The lawsuit notes that under federal law, Medicaid enrollees may seek family planning and other preventive health services from a participating provider of their choice and have those services covered by Medicaid.

Three plaintiffs, identified only as Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2 and Jane Doe No. 3, are Medicaid enrollees who prefer Planned Parenthood to other Medicaid providers, it says.

Hutchinson has said the state has the right to cancel its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood as long as a 30-day notice is provided.

He has said that other qualified providers surround the two Planned Parenthood clinics in Arkansas -- one in Fayetteville and one in Little Rock -- and that no one would lose access to care.

The clinics offer medication-induced abortions, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and other services.

The two Arkansas clinics served about 4,000 patients in fiscal 2014, with one in four of those patients on Medicaid, according to Suzanna de Baca, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Planned Parenthood has filed similar lawsuits against Alabama and Louisiana.

Metro on 09/15/2015

Print Headline: Hearing set in group's suit over Medicaid cutoff


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