Jindal fires back with new approach to defunding Planned Parenthood after judge blocked 1st attempt
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, October 15, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's administration has filed new paperwork citing a 2013 fraud case to argue in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. The administration is taking the new approach after a judge blocked Jindal's first attempt to pull Medicaid funding from the abortion giant in September.
In a letter of notice to Planned Parenthood, Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Secretary Kathy Kliebert also cites "contradictions" in Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast's (PPGC) responses to the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress as reasons for the defunding effort.
"DHH believes that PPGC misrepresented its actions therein and had contradictions within the body of the letter and with the statements and admissions made in the CMP videos," said Kliebert.
The letter to Planned Parenthood comes two years after state officials told state pro-life leaders and the press that the fraud case likely wouldn't be enough to pull the abortion giant's state funding.
In 2013, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and the state of Texas settled a $1.4 million fraud lawsuit from whistleblower Karen Reynolds. Because PPGC also has clinics in Louisiana, the state's pro-life leaders urged Jindal to yank PPGC's funding.
“Based on this serious abuse of taxpayer funds, we encourage the Jindal administration to immediately suspend Louisiana's contract with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast pending a thorough investigation as urged by the legislature,” said Benjamin Clapper, the executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, and Dorinda C. Bordlee, vice president of the Bioethics Defense Fund, in a joint statement at the time.
While Planned Parenthood doesn't have any abortion clinics in the state, its locations did receive nearly $700,000 in Medicaid reimbursements in 2014.
However, NOLA.com reports that court documents in 2013 show Jindal administration officials telling the pro-life groups that the state had found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.
"We take the allegations against Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast very seriously, especially given the settlement agreement between Planned Parenthood and the Texas Attorney General's Office," wrote Jindal spokeswoman Olivia Watkins in 2013. "At this point in time, we do not have credible evidence of Medicaid fraud by Planned Parenthood in Louisiana that would permit the Department from withholding or ceasing payment for Medicaid services. If we discover evidence of Medicaid fraud, we would take swift action."
But times have changed since then, with the release of a series of undercover videos implicating Planned Parenthood in illegal trafficking of human tissue and a variety of other offenses. Jindal responded to the release of those videos by immediately taking steps to defund Planned Parenthood.
In a dramatic gesture in August, Gov. Jindal screened the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos on a large screen outside the governor's mansion at the same time as Planned Parenthood supporters had scheduled a protest.
Kliebert's letter of notice to Planned Parenthood notes that the law allows the DHH to pull Medicaid funding in cases of "misrepresentation." In the wake of the release of the CMP videos, wrote Kliebert, "DHH believes PPGC’s responses to inquiries, when compared to clear representations in various videos, rises to the level of misrepresentation."
Jindal's initial attempt to defund Planned Parenthood was thwarted when Judge John deGravelles rejected the administration's argument that it could pull funding without cause in a hearing on Sept 2.
DeGravelles’ argument mirrors that of the Obama administration, which has threatened to sue states that defund Planned Parenthood, arguing that state-level defunding is illegal.
However, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Casey Mattox told members of Congress that "in the last two decades or so, about 9,000 providers [were] excluded from Medicaid. In most of those cases, they're completely uncontroversial…When it's Planned Parenthood, however, you have the Centers for Medicaid Services reinterpret the Medicaid statute to deny states the opportunity to exclude those providers."
"That is a privilege that other providers don't get to have," said Mattox.
A spokesperson from Jindal's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the administration was changing its position on the fraud case's relevance to a defunding effort.