COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A federal judge temporarily has blocked Governor Henry McMaster’s latest attempt to remove Planned Parenthood from South Carolina’s Medicaid program.
In a ruling handed down Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mary Geirger Lewis said states cannot exercise their discretion to exclude health care proviers from Medicaid programs for reasons unrelated to any potential inability to perform services covered by the joint federal and state program.
“It is undisputed [Planned Parenthood] is professionally competent and is capable of performing family planning services for Medicaid patients,” Lewis wrote, adding that based on motions filed to date in the case, the issuance of a preliminary injunction is in the public’s interest..
Lewis’s ruling staysMcMaster’s order until the court can consider and rule on Planned Parenthood’s suit contesting the move’s constitutionality.
McMaster signed an order on July 13 terminating Planned Parenthood’s ability to seek Medicaid reimbursements for family planning and other health services that it provides to hundreds of men, women and teens at its clinics in Charleston and Columbia.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a patient, Julie Edwards, sued the state last month, asking the court to void the governor’s order. to reverse McMaster’s order.
In its complaint, Planned Parenthood argues McMaster’s order is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on a patient’s right to choose his or her doctor.
The state contends Medicaid does not define the term “qualified,” permitting states to exclude providers for any reason established by law. It has pointed to a 2017 8th Circuit ruling that said patients’ right to choose their medical provider was “ambiguous.”
But Judge Lewis said five other circuit court disagree with that ruling, and have ruled federal law does not provide states “unlimited authority to exclude providers for any reason whatsoever.”
The ruling means Planned Parenthood can continue to accept Medicaid patients at its two S.C. clinics.
In a statement, Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said, “Today’s ruling demonstrates that playing political games with the health and dignity of women and families should not have any place in the everyday lives of South Carolinians.”
“Planned Parenthood is deeply committed to continuing to fight for the right to basic health care, and we are grateful to the Court for protecting our patient’s access to care, just as we always have,” Black said.
Brian Symmes, a spokesman for the governor, said McMaster, “will continue to fight until every South Carolinian can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their tax dollars are not being used to perform abortions.”