A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal court blocks Mississippi law disqualifying Medicaid benefits for non-theraupeautic abortions

[JURIST] Judge Daniel P. Jordan III of the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (Northern Division) [official website] on Thursday permanently enjoined [order, PDF] the state of Mississippi from "enforcing, threatening to enforce, or otherwise applying the provisions of Mississippi Code section 43-13-117.4," which disqualifies "any health-care provider that offers, or is affiliated with entities that offer, nontherapeutic abortions" from participating in the state's Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] argued that the law "unconstitutionally limited" healthcare provider options for patients and would have imposed a heavy burden on low-income patients. Jordan stated: "Essentially every court to consider similar laws has found that they violate § 1396a(a)(23) of Title 42 of the United States Code, the so-called 'FreeChoice-of-Provider Provision.'" Specifically referring to a decision last month from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which Mississippi conceded is "controlling and dispositive" in this case, the court granted Planned Parenthood's motion for a declaratory judgment and permanent injunctive relief finding Mississippi Code Section 43-13-117.4 void. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant [official website], a proponent of the law, expressed his disappointment [Reuters report] with the ruling stating that he "will continue to stand with the legislature and people of Mississippi who do not want their hard-earned money going to the largest abortion provider in the nation."

There has been a recent slew of state laws dealing with abortion. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a state law adding new licensing and inspection rules for facilities that perform abortions is unconstitutional. Last month a federal judge issued a temporary injunction [JURIST report] against Arkansas' suspension of Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood after Governor Asa Hutchinson [official website] terminated [AP report] the Medicaid funding last year following national controversy ignited by video recordings of Planned Parenthood's practices. In August a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Thursday permanently blocked [JURIST report] portions of a Florida law that would stop funding to Planned Parenthood. In July the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against an Arizona law that would potentially prevent low-income women from obtaining healthcare from their provider of choice. Earlier the same month a federal judge placed an injunction [JURIST report] on an Indiana law that would have banned women from seeking abortion procedures when they are based on race, sex, or the potential for or actual diagnosis of a disability in the fetus. Recently the US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-3 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt [SCOTUSblog materials] that a Texas law [HB2 text] imposing certain requirements on abortion clinics and doctors creates an undue burden on access to abortion, and is therefore unconstitutional [JURIST report].

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.