A federal judge struck down Mississippi's political Medicaid reimbursement law for "nontherapeutic abortion providers" last week in an attempt to block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding.
Lawmakers passed the bill last session despite warnings from advocates and journalists alike that the law would not stand based on legal history and current laws that allow men and women on Medicaid to receive services such as cancer and sexually transmitted infections screenings or birth control from Planned Parenthood clinics.
Mississippi has only one Planned Parenthood clinic, in Hattiesburg, and it offers women's health services—but does not perform abortions. Even if the clinic did offer abortion services, federal law does not allow Title X funds to pay for the procedure. The Hyde Amendment allows federal dollars to fund abortions, but only in extreme cases like rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
Co-authors of the Mississippi legislation, Senate Bill 2238, have a problem with taxpayer dollars, which help fund Medicaid, going to Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the clinic in Mississippi does not offer abortion. The fact that any federal money goes toward an organization that does abortions anywhere in the U.S. was enough to get the bill out of both chambers and onto the governor's desk in the spring.
Republicans also use Planned Parenthood funding as a political wedge issue to appeal to anti-abortion voters—even though the law was clearly frivolous and unconstitutional.
Attorney General Jim Hood had not decided whether to appeal the case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by press time. Supporters of Senate Bill 2238 would like to see an appeal, but it is a waste of time and money to push forward such legislation. Mississippi taxpayers have spent less than $500 on Medicaid reimbursements for women at Planned Parenthood in the past three years. By litigating the case and losing, the State owes attorneys' fees already, and the cost of an appeal would only raise that ticket price.
Mississippi cannot afford to appeal this case, and we cannot afford to keep passing bills for the sake of political clout and merit. The courts will most likely strike it down on appeal, especially after U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan relied on a September ruling from the 5th Circuit to overturn it.
Federal funding for Medicaid is medical support for those who cannot afford it. This is health care for mothers, children and families who qualify for Medicaid because their family's income is low enough. A single mother with an infant must make less than $2,500 a month to qualify for it in Mississippi. We need to remember the people that laws affect, not just the ideologies behind them. The women affected should matter more than a political anti-abortion agenda for mostly male lawmakers.
The frivolous legislation must end here.
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