Expanding Access to Affordable Health Care for Alabama Women Is Goal;
New Lawsuit Comes After Jindal Administration Tells Louisiana Court People Can Go to Orthopedists for Family Planning Care
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 27, 2015
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, email@example.com; 212-261-4433
ACLU of Alabama, 334-420-1740; firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a complaint in a federal district court arguing Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s illegal effort to block patients from accessing care through Medicaid at Planned Parenthood Southeast is driven by a long record of hostility to reproductive health care providers. Next week Planned Parenthood Southeast will be filing a motion for a preliminary injunction in order to protect the ability of Alabama women enrolled in Medicaid to access birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, and other preventive health services, at Planned Parenthood’s health centers in Alabama.
“We’re in court today because each and every patient, and her ability to make her own deeply personal and private health care decisions, matters,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in court once again with state officials who are hell-bent on ending a woman’s ability to make her own deeply personal and private health care decisions. Only this time, instead of going after safe and legal abortion as he has each of the past four years, now Governor Bentley is trying to dictate where a woman can go for contraception and other preventive care if she’s enrolled in Medicaid. Meanwhile, Alabama is dealing with some of the nation’s worst health outcomes, and restricting access to providers will do nothing to help the urgent problems we face.”
The latest research shows there are more than 320,000 Alabama women in need of publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies. One in five women in Alabama doesn’t have health insurance, 16 percent of women are living in poverty in Alabama, and the state ranks 15th highest among 50 states in teen pregnancy rates. While other states have sought to improve health outcomes by expanded access to Medicaid and other health services, access remains a challenge in Alabama, where parents are only eligible for Medicaid at or below 18 percent of the federal poverty level — equivalent to about $2,800 for a mother with one child. Yet Planned Parenthood Southeast cares for 22,000 patients across Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, determined to improve health outcomes for all people, no matter who they are or how much money they make.
In the lawsuit filed today, Planned Parenthood Southeast argues that Governor Bentley’s termination of its Medicaid provider agreement — which came without explanation and only 15 days notice — violates federal law that requires Medicaid patients have their choice of provider to receive family planning care.
“The federal government and several courts have made clear that a state cannot kick Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program simply because Planned Parenthood provides abortion,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, which is representing Planned Parenthood Southeast in the suit. “This is yet another attempt by the State of Alabama to impermissibly target abortion providers for unfair treatment.”
By his own admission, speaking before the Madison County Republican Men’s Club, Governor Bentley’s decision to terminate the agreement with Planned Parenthood Southeast was based upon widely discredited videos generated as part of a fraudulent misinformation campaign against Planned Parenthood and has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood Southeast’s qualifications as a Medicaid provider. In fact, two separate investigations of Planned Parenthood Southeast in Georgia found compliance with state laws (just as officials in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota have found).
Planned Parenthood Southeast has two health centers in Alabama, located in Birmingham and Mobile, and both of these health centers provide care in Health Professional Shortage Areas, which are determined to be areas where primary care professionals are practically inaccessible. OB/GYN providers, including Planned Parenthood health centers, play a critical role in providing primary and preventive care to women in the United States. Almost six in 10 women (58 percent) report seeing an OB/GYN on a regular basis and one-third of women (35 percent) view their OB/GYN provider as their main source of care, with low-income women and women of color reporting that OB/GYN providers, like Planned Parenthood health centers, play an even stronger role in their health care. For many women, OB/GYN providers are their initial entry point into the health care system when they become adults.
“No politician should get to decide whether you can go to Planned Parenthood for care, but yesterday the Jindal administration filed papers with a federal court in Louisiana saying there’s ‘nothing unique’ about Pap tests, breast exams and HIV tests and suggesting the more than 5,200 people who rely on Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast can simply get this care from anesthesiologists, radiologists, cardiologists or orthopedists instead. It’s insulting, it’s outrageous and it’s exactly why we are fighting in Alabama, in Louisiana, in Congress, and anywhere else there are efforts to block women, men and young people from care at Planned Parenthood,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “For 99 years, Planned Parenthood has worked to advance women’s health care, to expand access, and to give women, men and young people more power to build the future they choose. We’re not going anywhere.”
For a copy of the filed complaint, please click here.
For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. Whether it’s achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, ending mass incarceration, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.