MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In the wake of revelations that Planned Parenthood facilities around the country were harvesting and selling aborted baby organs and body parts, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced the state had terminated its Medicaid contract with the organization. That decision now appears to have been a costly one for Alabama taxpayers.
Alabama’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood was worth under $5,000 annually, and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services warned that terminating it would violate federal law. So after Governor Bentley pushed forward with severing ties with Planned Parenthood, the organization sued the state, saying it had never participated in the controversial fetal tissue program.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson last month ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood in the suit. On Monday, a settlement was reached that fully reinstates Planned Parenthood’s Alabama Medicaid funding, and compels the state to pay the group’s $51,000 in legal fees, meaning ten times more taxpayer dollars will go to the organization this year than in years past.
“We are pleased that Planned Parenthood can get back to its commitment to protecting access to care in the state of Alabama which remains its number one priority,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the Alabama ACLU, which represented Planned Parenthood in the suit. “The fact that Planned Parenthood Southeast doesn’t participate in tissue donation programs in Alabama underscores that this investigation is all about political grandstanding, not facts.”
Some conservatives were quick to criticize the settlement.
“I’m reading this as a total fail on the part of the Bentley Administration,” remarked conservative talk radio host Matt Murphy.
“The state had only paid about $4,300 to Planned Parenthood this year but now is paying them an additional $51,000,” said State Auditor Jim Zeiger, a frequent Bentley critic. “This matter was badly mishandled, bungled. It ended up helping Planned Parenthood and costing Alabama taxpayers.”
But the Bentley Administration characterized the settlement as a win for Alabama and the pro-life cause. In a statement, the governor’s office said the settlement included “concessions” from Planned Parenthood, including the assurance that it is “in compliance with Alabama law and does not participate in the practice of harvesting organs of unborn children and receiving reimbursement.”
“The national pressure from Alabama and other states led Planned Parenthood to change its practices and no longer engage in the despicable and inhumane practice of selling organs of unborn children,” Governor Bentley said. “I will always fight to protect the rights of the unborn. If any medical provider in Alabama engages in practices that are contrary to accepted standards in the future, we will use every means necessary and available to ensure that those practices end.”
In addition to assuring the state that it complies with Alabama law and does not harvest organs from unborn children, Planned Parenthood Southeast also assured Governor Bentley that it is a separate business entity from the organizations that have admitted to accepting money for harvesting organs in the past, the governor’s office said.
The Medicaid funding the group receives will specifically pay for routine gynecology exams and birth control methods for Medicaid recipients.