A federal judge has overturned a law in Mississippi preventing Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood and the state's only abortion provider. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A federal judge blocked a state law preventing Mississippi's Medicaid agency from making reimbursements to Planned Parenthood and to the state's only abortion clinic.
The order Thursday by U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III overturns a law preventing payments to the state's Planned Parenthood clinic and to its only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Jackson, for birth control and women's cancer screenings. The law was passed in 2016 and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Although Medicaid does not generally pay for abortions, the law effectively barred the clinic from receiving Medicaid payments for other services, including birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infections screenings.
Records from the state's Medicaid Division indicate it paid $384 in fee-for-service claims and $53 in encounter claims since 2014 to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Hattiesburg.
Jordan, in enjoining the state law, wrote that "essentially every court to consider similar laws has found they violate Title 42 of the United States Code, the so-called 'Free-Choice-of-Provider Provision.'" The original complaint, filed in June by Planned Parenthood, noted the law also violates equal protection rights of the service providers and their patients. Jordan's ruling Thursday agrees with a decision reached in September by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Several rallies by demonstrators opposing the law were held while it was debated in the Mississippi Senate. After it passed, Felicia Brown-Williams, Planned parenthood's public policy director, told an audience in May, "We're here because we advocate for access to reproductive healthcare regardless of gender, regardless of sexuality, regardless of your income and regardless of your zip code."
In a statement, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood national president, praised Jordan's ruling, saying "Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their healthcare. This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day. We will not stand for these attacks on our patient's' right to health care, and Planned Parenthood will fight for our patients at every turn."
The Mississippi legislature can still amend or otherwise seek a change in the law.