Why Is Biden Letting States Like Missouri Defund Planned Parenthood?

Two Planned Parenthood affiliates south of the state of Missouri today, seeking to prevent the Republican-led state from kicking them out of the Medicaid program because they offer abortions.

The bigger question is why the lawsuit was necessary under a Democratic president.

Federal law protects the right of Medicaid patients to go to any qualified provider for health care. The fact that a health center offers abortions is not a legitimate reason to ban Medicaid patients from going there for services like STI treatments, cancer screenings, and contraception—at least according to the Obama administration, which sent a letter to all 50 states in 2016 warning them against “defunding” Planned Parenthood under Medicaid. At least 10 states had moved to revoke Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding after anti-abortion activists released deceptively edited videos attacking the group in 2015. A number of these efforts resulted in lengthy court battles. Texas and Mississippi succeeded in stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding last year, following Arkansas in 2017. Court battles have blocked similar efforts in Louisiana and South Carolina.

Now, Planned Parenthood says Missouri is poised to be the fourth state to strip Medicaid reimbursements from the organization. And while the Biden administration has said it agrees with its Democratic predecessor’s interpretation of the law, it has yet to enforce it.

“For more than a year, we’ve warned the Biden administration: Missourians are in danger of losing access to their health care,” Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said in a statement provided exclusively to the nation ahead of the lawsuit.

“Now, we are pleading with them: Enforce Medicaid law immediately. Missouri is the fourth state to violate federal law, and without enforcement, it won’t be the last,” Rodríguez said.

The two affiliates said they will foot the bill so that Medicaid patients can still be seen at their health centers in Missouri. The second affiliate involved in the lawsuit is Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP), which covers Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas and has spent the past six months absorbing patients flocking to its health centers from Texas, where a law that bans most abortions after six weeks has been in effect since September 1.

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