The pro-life movement in Arkansas garnered a win Aug. 16 when a panel of three judges in the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the state does not have to pay for Planned Parenthood services through Medicaid.
“We supported the governor’s decision because pro-life Arkansans don’t want any tax dollars going to an organization that kills unborn children for money,” said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, a nonprofit that advocates for the unborn.
On Aug. 14, 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state Department of Human Services would stop funding Planned Parenthood within 30 days due to “unethical” actions of Planned Parenthood clinics, following widely publicized edited videos obtained to show clinics in other states profiting from aborted fetal tissue. Those who obtained the undercover videos were indicted on tampering charges by a Texas grand jury, according to an Aug. 17 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article, and Planned Parenthood denied the illegal practice.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker declared orders in 2015 and 2016 that the state continue funding Planned Parenthood, which has two clinics, one in Little Rock and one in Fayetteville, after three women sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
In court, Lee Rudofsky, solicitor general in Arkansas, argued states have the right to drop a provider from Medicaid because of ethical reasons. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the lawsuit for the Medicaid recipients, vowed to evaluate “all options” going forward, the ADG article stated.
“First of all, it’s a victory not only for the unborn but it’s a victory for women because abortion does not help women. Women in difficult situations, certainly women recipients of Medicaid, they need love, support and encouragement, but not abortion,” said Sheila Pursell, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Catholic Respect Life Council, a nonprofit that advocates for pro-life issues. “… It’s a victory for taxpayers of good will who don’t want their money going to the death of the innocent.”
Despite Medicaid money not going toward most abortions even prior to Hutchinson’s order, Mimms said that detail is beside the point.
“They are getting tax dollars. They are supposed to be a nonprofit organization; they supposedly help poor women who need medical care. But we know their whole intent and purpose is to brand themselves as abortion services for these poor women,” she said.
Pursell, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, pointed to Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas who became a pro-life advocate after watching an abortion on an ultrasound, who has said the organization’s operating budget for services are in “one big pot.”
“If you have to spend less money in one area, you can spend more money in another area,” concluding it’s not necessarily true that no money will wind up going toward abortions, Pursell said.
While critics argue that Planned Parenthood offers other services to low-income women, like manual breast cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease testing, Mimms said there are other options for health care.
“There are hundreds of places that people can get the same types of services, except abortions, in Arkansas. Every county has a health department,” Mimms said, adding that if Planned Parenthood wanted to reach more women, they would have more than two locations in the state. “Arkansas is a small state compared to many others where they do have lots more clinics but they are streamlining their operation every year, closing small clinics and going to mega-clinics where they can really provide more access to abortion for more women.”
“You have to remember that their whole purpose since the very beginning was to target minority communities and poor communities,” publicizing contraception and other services, Mimms said. “They’re there and ready and want to be friends with the people that they target … their bottom line is always going to be abortion services.”
According to the Arkansas Right to Life website, artl.org, there are 40 crisis pregnancy resource centers throughout Arkansas that often provide STD testing, pregnancy tests, HIV tests and other medical services for free. In Little Rock, there is Birthright and Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center and in Fayetteville, Loving Choices Pregnancy Center.
“They have counseling for free. If you need medical assistance, they have medical doctors that volunteer their time, the girls don’t pay anything,” Pursell said of Loving Choices.
Victories like this, Pursell said, help those who are against abortion stay vigilant. In 2016, there were 3,207 abortions in Arkansas, down 564 from 2015.
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