Ala. governor to cut state Medicaid money to Planned Parenthood

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday that he is cutting off state Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood in the face of undercover videos shot by anti-abortion activists that implied the group was selling fetal tissue to researchers.

The Republican governor sent Planned Parenthood Southeast a letter announcing that he was terminating agreements that allowed Planned Parenthood to be reimbursed for providing health care services to Medicaid patients. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is running for GOP presidential nomination, announced a similar decision Monday.

"The deplorable practices at Planned Parenthood have been exposed to Americans, and I have decided to stop any association with the organization in Alabama. As a doctor and Alabama's governor, the issue of human life, from conception to birth and beyond, is extremely important. I respect human life and do not want Alabama to be associated with an organization that does not," Bentley said.

Alabama Medicaid Agency records show that the state has paid Planned Parenthood Southeast less than $5,000 over the last two years. The payments were for contraceptives for low-income women and not abortion.

Medicaid in this fiscal year paid the group $3,417.58 for office visits, contraceptive implants and birth control shots. The state Medicaid Agency paid the group $933.79 in 2014 for an office visit, birth control shots and one IUD insertion and injections.

"We are disappointed that Gov. Bentley has been distracted by a deceptive attack against our organization instead of staying focused on what really matters to women in Alabama. What Alabamians need is more access to health care, not less," said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Fox said the organization provides cancer screenings, well-woman exams, birth control options, and STD testing and treatment. "Because of our health centers, low-income, uninsured women and families were able to access high-quality affordable health care through the safety net provided by Medicaid funding," she said.

Planned Parenthood operates health care clinics in Mobile and Birmingham.

The anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, released several secretly shot videos with Planned Parenthood executives describing how the organization provides fetal tissue to medical researchers and discussing different procedures and prices.

Planned Parenthood executives have denied claims that the transactions were sales and said any donations are legal and ethical. The law allows abortion providers to be paid for processing fees but not to profit from fetal tissue.

The U.S. Senate on Monday blocked Republican legislation to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood in the wake of the videos.