This week Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals not to overturn a panel’s ruling that lets the state cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading abortion provider. In 2015 Governor Asa Hutchinson directed the state to stop giving Medicaid reimbursements to the organization after a series of undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs and tissue harvested from aborted babies.
Following a lengthy lawsuit, a three-judge panel ruled in August that the state has the power to cut Medicaid funds to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood appealed that decision to the entire Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Below is a full timeline of the issue of publicly-funded abortion in Arkansas.
- November 8, 1988: Voters in Arkansas passed Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution prohibiting public funds from paying for abortion, except to save the mother’s life.
- July 25, 1994: Following a lawsuit by an abortion clinic in Little Rock, a federal court blocked enforcement of Amendment 68, saying it violated the Hyde Amendment — a rider on the federal budget Congress passed in 1994 prohibiting public funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
- July 25, 1995: The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling.
- March 18, 1996: The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling, essentially saying Amendment 68 could only be blocked insofar as it conflicted with the Hyde Amendment. Practically speaking, this has prevented public funding of abortion in most cases, with the exception of abortions paid for with Medicaid funds in certain circumstances permitted by the federal Hyde Amendment.
- April 6, 2015: The Arkansas Legislature passed Act 996 prohibiting the state from awarding grants to abortion providers and their affiliates.
- August 14, 2015: Governor Asa Hutchinson directed the Department of Human Services to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood.
- October 2, 2015: U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction forcing the State of Arkansas to continue making Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood following a lawsuit by three of Planned Parenthood’s patients.
- September 29, 2016: U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker expanded that ruling to apply to all of Planned Parenthood’s patients in Arkansas. Arkansas’ attorney general appealed the ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- August 16, 2017: A three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Arkansas can decline to provide Medicaid reimbursements to abortion providers.
- August 30, 2017: The three-judge panel’s decision was appealed to the full Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- October 24, 2017: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office asked the Eighth Circuit to leave the panel’s decision in place.
Photo Credit: By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.