A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley must restore payments to Planned Parenthood, dealing one of the strongest blows yet to the state-led effort to defund the group.
In a 66-page decision, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson rejected the state’s argument for canceling the group’s Medicaid contract, which was based on a series of undercover videos that claimed Planned Parenthood mismanaged its fetal tissue donation program.
Thompson’s order to restore the funding comes shortly after a judge ordered Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to temporarily resume funding to Planned Parenthood.
The move was quickly cheered by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing plaintiffs in the suit. The plaintiffs are patients of Planned Parenthood who said their care would be jeopardized if Planned Parenthood clinics did not receive state funding.
“This is in fact a great victory for women in Alabama to go to the provider of their choice without regard to political choices by the governor,” Randall Marshall, an ACLU attorney involved in the case, declared Wednesday, according to Planned Parenthood.
Bentley has said that undercover footage of Planned Parenthood clinics have proven ethical lapses in its fetal tissue donation program, which, in effect, cause an injury to the state. But Thompson, appointed to the court by former President Carter, said that even if the claims were accurate, it did not affect patients in Alabama, where Planned Parenthood does not allow fetal tissue to be donated.
“This argument is not persuasive because the defendants do not dispute the plaintiffs’ assertions — or the evidence in the record — that [Planned Parenthood Southeast] does not engage in fetal-tissue donation,” he writes. “The practices purported to be portrayed by the videos, therefore, cannot possibly cause any harm to the State or to Alabama taxpayers.”
He issued a preliminary injunction to the plaintiff Jane Doe, who he said was "very likely to succeed on her claim" that the governor violated the Medicaid Act.
The Obama administration had previously warned states like Alabama and Louisiana that cutting off Medicaid contracts was likely against the law. Planned Parenthood launched lawsuits in those states shortly after.