White House warns states: Keep funding Planned Parenthood

© Mike Blake
After secret videos showing sales of body parts from aborted babies provoked calls to defund the birth control clinic chain, federal officials warned the states that cutting off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood might violate federal laws.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told state officials in Louisiana and Alabama that their plans to cancel Medicaid provider agreements may illegally restrict beneficiary access to services.

Federal laws require state Medicaid programs to cover family planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age, according to a HHS spokesperson, who added that ending current arrangements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries’ access to care and services from providers of their choice.

Several Republican presidential hopefuls have called for cutting some $500 million in federal funds to Planned Parenthood, after the conservative activist group Center for Medical Progress posted a series of undercover videos showing what they say is a practice of trafficking in aborted fetal tissues.

In the newest CMP video, released Wednesday, a former employee of StemExpress identified as Holly O’Donnell said the company – which provides medical researchers with fetal tissue – would not always obtain informed consent of women who underwent abortions at PP clinics before claiming the tissue.

“Planned Parenthood’s abortion and baby parts business is not a safe place where vulnerable women can be cared for, but a harvesting ground for saleable human ‘product’,” CMP’s David Daleiden said in a statement, adding that taxpayer subsidies for “Planned Parenthood’s barbaric abortion business should be revoked immediately.”

StemExpress denounced CMPs video as “deceptively edited and falsely worded to suggest impropriety or illegality where none exists.” The company tried to block the release of the video, obtaining a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 28.

Planned Parenthood denies breaking any laws, and insists that CMP is an extremist organization making “false and outrageous” claims.

“Planned Parenthood follows all laws – period. This latest video is part of a fraud intended to deceive the public and advance an extreme political agenda, and nothing on this video substantiates false claims from anti-abortion activists,” spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens also welcomed support from the HHS, dismissing the calls to cut federal funding to the organization as “political grandstanding.”

"It's good to hear that HHS has clarified what we already know: blocking women’s access to care at Planned Parenthood is against the law,” Laguens said.

Last week, Alabama and Louisiana moved to sever their contracts with Planned Parenthood under Medicaid. Republican legislators in New Hampshire voted to block state funding to the organization, over the objections of the state’s Democratic governor.

Citing a June 2011 memorandum, the HHS said that states may exclude healthcare providers from Medicaid under certain circumstances, such as fraud or criminal acts, but not solely on the basis of the services they provide – such as abortions, for example. If federal and state officials cannot resolve the dispute, and a hearing fails to result in a settlement, the agency can cut federal Medicaid funds to the state, according to the Wall Street Journal.