- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge this week to expand her order blocking Arkansas’ attempt to cut off Medicaid funds to the organization so it will cover any current or future Medicaid patients at its health centers in the state.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to issue a new preliminary injunction preventing the defunding move. Baker in October issued an order temporarily barring the state from denying Medicaid funds for three unnamed women suing the state, and she has since approved Planned Parenthood’s request that its lawsuit include any Medicaid patients receiving or seeking treatment from the organization.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year terminated the state’s Medicaid contract with the organization over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. A federal appeals panel rejected the state’s attempt last week to challenge the class certification granted in the lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood said in its filing that for many of its Medicaid patients, “it will be much more difficult - if not impossible - to obtain high-quality needed services elsewhere.” The group cited a shortage of Medicaid providers who can provide similar health care services, as well as long wait times and scheduling delays at other facilities.

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was aware of the request and would respond at the appropriate time in court.

Arkansas is among several states that have tried recently to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. Republicans around the country have targeted Planned Parenthood after several videos were released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. The center said the videos showed that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit.

Planned Parenthood said the videos were heavily edited and denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs. The organization, in an effort to squelch the controversy, announced last year it would no longer accept reimbursement for the cost of providing the tissue to researchers.

Hutchinson, a Republican, in August ordered the state to cut off Medicaid funding to the group over the videos. The state has said Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds over the past fiscal year. None of the money paid for abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland did not appear in any of the videos and doesn’t participate in any fetal tissue donation, its attorneys have said.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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