Casey Cagle demands agencies cut funding access to Planned Parenthood

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle demanded Wednesday state health officials stop using public tax dollars to fund any women’s health services at Planned Parenthood, including those for low-income women paid for through the federal Medicaid program.

It’s the first time one of Georgia’s top elected officials has formally requested cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood completely, a route already taken by other Southern leaders after a covertly filmed video showed a national Planned Parenthood official discussing the harvesting of fetal body parts after an abortion.

That video and others released over the last several weeks by anti-abortion activists have enraged abortion foes, including Cagle.

In a letter sent Wednesday morning to the agency heads of both the state departments of community health and public health, he asked them to prepare a plan on how to redirect funding toward other community health centers, medical pregnancy resource centers, “safety net” clinics and other facilities “that offer women access to care in an appropriate setting that is focused on their health and not the sale of human body parts,” he said.

“While I understand that the administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are threatening legal action against states taking this path, I stand prepared to assist you in that lawsuit and to ensure any necessary funding is appropriated to defend the state against legal action by an overreaching federal government,” Cagle said.

Georgia already bans the sale of fetal tissue, although some lawmakers believe it may allow sales of the tissue for research purposes. Just last week, state House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, announced he would sponsor legislation next year to strengthen penalties against the sale of fetal tissue but make clear the tissue can be donated for research purposes if requested by the mother.

Cagle does not have the formal authority to make state departments stop using federal Medicaid funds for services provided through Planned Parenthood Southeast, which also operates clinics in Alabama and Mississippi. His letter, in other words, amounts to a strongly worded request.

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

Still, several Southern states have already takes steps to eliminate public funding for the organization’s clinics. Earlier this month, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a notice to terminate his state’s contract with Planned Parenthood Southeast to provide contraception and reproductive health screenings through a Medicaid family planning waiver. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has also moved to terminate Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast clinics’ Medicaid contract.

Cagle’s letter comes a month after Gov. Nathan Deal ordered an investigation into the state’s abortion clinics or agencies that run them.

However, after more than a month of investigation into clinics in Savannah, Columbus, Marietta, Lawrenceville, Atlanta and Augusta, the Department of Community Health concluded that all are complying with state law and properly disposing of aborted fetuses and fetal tissues.

The Department of Public Health conducted a separate investigation and found the facilities to be in compliance with state law.

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