- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas officials asked a federal judge Thursday to reject an effort to expand the lawsuit challenging the state’s decision to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to deny Planned Parenthood’s request seeking class-action status for its lawsuit challenging the termination. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson in August announced he was terminating the contract over the videos.

Baker earlier this month issued a preliminary injunction requiring Arkansas to pay Medicaid claims for three Planned Parenthood patients who are unidentified plaintiffs in the case, a decision that allowed the state to ban the funding in other circumstances. Planned Parenthood has asked Baker to expand the case to cover current and future Medicaid patients who seek treatment at Planned Parenthood.

Rutledge’s office argued the three plaintiffs couldn’t adequately represent other patients in the case, and said the lawsuit has been driven primarily by Planned Parenthood.

“The Jane Does are not adequate representatives of a potential class because they are little more than ‘figurehead’ names in a suit controlled entirely by Planned Parenthood’s counsel,” the state said in Thursday’s filing.

In its request for class-action status earlier this month, Planned Parenthood said current and future Medicaid patients “will find it difficult or impossible to access comparable reproductive and other health care services,” if the contract termination is allowed to stand.

The state has said Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds over the past fiscal year. None of the money paid for abortions.

The state said if Baker does grant class-action status, it should be limited to only existing patients at Planned Parenthood’s Little Rock facility. The state asked Baker to hold a hearing on the organization’s request.

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 this month it would no longer accept reimbursement for the cost of providing the tissue to researchers.

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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