Atlanta-based Planned Parenthood Southeast files suit against Alabama

Atlanta-based Planned Parenthood Southeast fired back at critics Friday, filing a federal lawsuit in Alabama over efforts there to block patients from receiving medical services paid for through the federal Medicaid program.

The move follows Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision earlier this month to terminate his state’s contract with the organization’s clinics to provide contraception and reproductive health screenings through a Medicaid family planning waiver.

“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,” said Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, which filed the suit in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The groups said they plan to file a motion next week for a preliminary injunction against the state, to prevent it from cutting off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood Southeast’s two health centers in Birmingham and Mobile. The organization also operates clinics in Georgia and Mississippi.

The clinics, while known as abortion providers, also give patients access to contraception, screening for cervical and breast cancer, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Bentley’s decision came after the release in July of a covertly filmed video that Planned Parenthood’s critics say shows it profits from the sale of body parts after abortions. That video and others released over the past several weeks by anti-abortion activists have enraged abortion foes.

Planned Parenthood released an analysis Thursday claiming the videos were deceptively and misleadingly edited.

The Alabama battle is not the only one happening in the South. Planned Parenthood’s Gulf Coast affiliate is also battling Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to terminate its clinics’ Medicaid contract.

In Georgia, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle demanded Wednesday that state health officials stop using public tax dollars, including Medicaid, to fund any medical services at Planned Parenthood.

It was the first time one of Georgia’s top elected officials has formally requested cutting off funds to the organization completely, although Cagle does not have the formal authority to make state departments stop using federal Medicaid funds for services provided by the organization.

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