Planned Parenthood, the women’s healthcare group under attack recently by U.S. anti-abortion activists, hit back on Wednesday, criticizing some states for trying to block funding for the organization.
Shortly before making a speech at Georgetown University, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told reporters that a letter sent on Tuesday to state Medicaid agencies makes clear that efforts to defund her group are illegal.
Federal Medicaid Director Vikki Wachino sent the letter to Medicaid agencies in all 50 U.S. states, warning them against cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood.
Wachino’s letter did not name Planned Parenthood directly, but said state Medicaid funds for healthcare providers may only be restricted if the provider cannot perform covered medical services or bill for services appropriately.
It added that states may not defund family planning providers solely because they offer a “full range” of legal gynecological and obstetric care, including abortions.
The letter made it “abundantly clear that recent efforts to prevent patients who rely on Medicaid from coming to Planned Parenthood or other providers for essential preventative services are illegal,” Richards said on a conference call.
Medicaid is a U.S. government healthcare program for the poor of all ages; Medicare is for the elderly and disabled.
Funding for Planned Parenthood has been under fire since mid-2015. That was when anti-abortion activists began releasing covertly filmed videos purporting to show officials from the group trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue.
Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.
Planned Parenthood denied the accusations and called the probe politically motivated.
Marissa Padilla, spokeswoman for the Department of Health & Human Services, said the letter responded to “recent actions by some states to terminate agreements with providers and restrict individuals from receiving their care.”
Planned Parenthood officials said at least 24 states have moved to restrict access to care at the group’s clinics through Medicaid and other public funding programs since mid-2015.
Federal officials had previously contacted individual states to warn about restricting beneficiaries’ access to care, though this was the first time they reached out to them all collectively.
Two weeks ago, California law enforcement agents raided the home of the head of the anti-abortion group that produced the videos and seized computers and video footage.
(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alan Crosby)
WATCH: John Oliver exposes Trump’s lies about vote-by-mail — and the Fox News ‘cult’ claiming the election is already ‘rigged’
"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver's main story Sunday refuted President Donald Trump's latest crusade against vote-by-mail. Trump announced on Twitter that the more people who vote in an election, the more Republicans tend to lose. So, he wants fewer people to have access to the ballot in November, even if people are too scared to go out during the coronavirus crisis.
Oliver called out Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO), who outright told people not to vote if they were too afraid to vote in the local elections next week.
"Well, hold on there," Oliver interjected. "Voting is a right. It has to be easy to understand and accessible to anyone."
John Oliver rips Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for urging ‘order’ from people of color — but never demanding it of police
John Oliver opened his Sunday show, shredding Fox News host Tucker Carlson for uring "order" among protesters, but refusing to urge "order" to police and "wannabe police" who can't stop killing people.
It's a lot, Oliver explained. "How these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct, both in Minneapolis and the nation at large and how that misconduct is, itself, built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color."
While some of it is complicated, Oliver conceded, most of it is "all too clear."
Cars set on fire blocks from White House as DC protests turn violent
The Washington, D.C. protests turned violent as the city approached the 11 p.m. curfew the mayor instituted Sunday afternoon.
The policy of D.C. police is that when they are attacked, they advance forward. So, when fireworks were fired, the line of officers began pushing the protesters back further from the White House. Behind the line of police officers also stand a line of National Guard troops that President Donald Trump has demanded stand watch in the city.
Lights that normally shine on the White House have also been turned off, reporters revealed.