Bush Judge Rules Mississippi Can’t Cut Planned Parenthood From Medicaid Program

Photo Credit: Charlotte Cooper
Photo Credit: Charlotte Cooper

JACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President George W. Bush has ruled that Mississippi officials cannot cut Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program because the move violates the “free-choice-of-provider” clause in federal law.

“Essentially every court to consider similar laws has found that they violate § 1396a(a)(23) of Title 42 of the United States Code, the so-called ‘Free Choice-of-Provider Provision,'” U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III wrote in his brief two-page order on Thursday.

“It is hereby ordered, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 57, that Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Declaratory Judgment finding Mississippi Code section 43-13-117.4 void is granted,” he declared.

As previously reported, Gov. Phil Bryant had signed Senate Bill 2238 into law in May after it cleared both houses of the legislature. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane, only applied to facilities that perform non-therapeutic abortions. Therapeutic abortions are those performed due to fetal abnormalities or the life or health of the mother.

“[T]he division shall not authorize payment of part or all of the costs of care and services rendered by any entity that performs non-therapeutic abortions, maintains or operates a facility where non-therapeutic abortions are performed, or is affiliated with such an entity,” it read in part.

“For purposes of this provision, ‘nontherapeutic abortions’ means abortions that are not qualified for federal matching funds under the Medicaid program.”

The sole Planned Parenthood location in Mississippi only provides referrals for abortions, but lawmakers believe that the state should not be affiliated with the organization. The Hattiesburg location had been receiving occasional reimbursement for birth control, totaling less than $500 a year.

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“You are the company you keep, and by Mississippi reimbursing Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, we are keeping that company,” Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, told reporters.

In June, Planned Parenthood filed suit to challenge the law, stating that it will cause men and women to “lose their provider of choice.” It alleged a violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Last month, the organization sought summary judgment in its favor, and on Thursday, Judge Jordan placed a permanent injunction on the law.

“It is further ordered that Defendant, his agents, employees, appointees, delegates, and successors are hereby permanently enjoined from enforcing, threatening to enforce, or otherwise applying the provisions of [the law],” he wrote.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards applauded the outcome.

“Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their health care,” she said in a statement. “This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day. We will not stand for these attacks on our patients’ right to health care, and Planned Parenthood will fight for our patients at every turn.”

But Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant expressed his commitment to protecting the unborn in his state and not funding organizations that kill children.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the ruling, and I remain committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child,” he stated. “I believe it was the right thing to do, and I will continue to stand with the legislature and people of Mississippi who do not want their hard-earned money going to the largest abortion provider in the nation.”

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