Planned Parenthood in Louisiana hopes it will not be forced to close its doors at its two facilities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, even as Gov. Bobby Jindal has threatened to halt federal Medicaid contracts with the organization, a move that will impact more than half of its patients.
At its Baton Rouge and New Orleans facilities, Planned Parenthood saw 10,000 patients in 2014 — nearly 5,200 of those patients use Medicaid, according to the organization. But last week, the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services alerted Louisiana and Alabama state officials that terminating Medicaid agreements with Planned Parenthood likely violates federal law — and that restricting women's health care providers will negatively impact preventative health.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokesperson Raegan Carter told Gambit that it's unlikely the state can take federal money away, but the organization takes Jindal's move as a serious threat to its operation in the state and to women's health. While the threat of losing Medicaid support won't close Planned Parenthood in Louisiana, "that is definitely Gov. Jindal's intent," Carter said. "As an organization, it is Planned Parenthood's intent to continue to be in Louisiana like we've been for 30 years."
On Aug. 3, Jindal moved to terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood in the state and directed the state Department of Health and Hospitals to investigate the organization after heavily edited videos from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress alleged Planned Parenthood's sale of fetal tissue. In a statement, Jindal said, "Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the State of Louisiana in regards to respecting human life."
"His reasoning is not based on facts," Carter said. "In Louisiana, all of our work is about preventive health care," including breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment. Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of cervical cancer screenings and HIV/AIDS testing in Louisiana. The state's rates of cervical cancer and HIV/AIDs diagnoses are also among the nation's highest. Coupled with legislation that prevents Planned Parenthood from providing sex ed materials in Louisiana schools, Carter says the organization's inability to provide care and information to the state's poorest patients will only contribute to higher rates.
"People won't get tested, and when you're not receiving proper sex education, not only are you not getting tested for HIV so you don't know your status, you're still sexually active," she said. "It's just simply not true that there are other Medicaid providers that can absorb patients. They don't exist. If they did exist, we wouldn't be in the same crisis."