Alex Milan Tracy / Demotix / Corbis

Arkansas governor cuts state contracts with Planned Parenthood

Decision follows similar moves by Alabama, Louisiana that federal authorities say could run afoul of regulations

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Friday canceled the state's contracts with Planned Parenthood, making his the third Southern state to do so since anti-abortion activists released a series of videos that they say suggests the organization sells fetal tissue.

"It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them," Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a statement.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services sent a letter to Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & East Oklahoma saying the reproductive services non-profit had 30 days to submit a written appeal.

Arkansas' move comes after the U.S. government has warned states moving to defund women's health group Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law.

Planned Parenthood has come under massive criticism from Republicans and been investigated by several Republican-controlled states after the release of the videos by an anti-abortion activist group called the Center for Medical Progress.

Planned Parenthood said it believed the move by Hutchinson and the other states is "clearly a violation of the Medicaid statute that requires that a woman have her choice among qualified providers."

"This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests and other lifesaving care," Angie Remington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement.

The Arkansas contracts involved services including nurse practitioners, pharmacy and family planning and were delivered through the Arkansas Medicaid program. No state funds were used for abortions, except in the case of incest, rape or when the life of the mother was at stake.

Several conservative state legislators had urged Hutchinson to end all state payments to Planned Parenthood, citing the videos.

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Ending the agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries' access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 Alabama and Louisiana, which have also sought to end their agreements with Planned Parenthood, were cautioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that their actions could put them afoul of federal regulations which make any qualified provider eligible to participate in the program.

Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare services to millions of women at hundreds of centers nationwide, has denied any wrongdoing. The organization also says abortions make up 3 percent of its work.

Al Jazeera and wire services    

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