BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Planned Parenthood supporters made a desperate plea to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal after he announced a few weeks ago the state would no longer use the health organization as a Medicaid provider.
"It deflates you because you're trying to take care of your health," said patient Cheramie Fontenette.
The decision came in the wake of anti-abortion groups releasing some highly contentious videos that accuse Planned Parenthood of selling fetal body parts. Abortion services are not currently offered by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast at its New Orleans or Baton Rouge locations. But the group stated in a release that it is "building a new facility in New Orleans and plans to do abortions there."
The Department of Health and Hospitals is looking into whether or not Planned Parenthood is violating Louisiana law that says "no person or group contracting with the state or receiving government assistance shall require or recommend that any woman have an abortion." The state's investigation into Planned Parenthood is currently ongoing.
With just over a week left before Medicaid funding is pulled, supporters are asking Jindal to change his mind. According to Planned Parenthood, more than 5,000 Medicaid patients utilized their Baton Rouge and New Orleans clinics for basic health care.
"We provide well women exams, cervical screenings, breast health exams, HIV testing, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. Those things are vital to sexual and reproductive health," said Reagan Carter, the Senior Director of External Services for Planned Parenthood Louisiana.
Even though Jindal was campaigning in South Carolina at the time of the rally, the Republican presidential hopeful made his stance clear by having his staff show those same disputed videos on a loop across the street from protesters.
"I think once you watch the videos you'll see why we have a problem and why we're very concerned with the practices that are allegedly occurring at Planned Parenthood," said the Governor's Assistant Chief of Staff Natalie LaBorde.
At the rally, the protesters said playing the video was a political stunt. Political analyst Jim Engster said it was a clever one.
"The governor wasn't here and yet he got plenty of media attention and did so in a unique way," said Engster. "He accomplished his goal of drawing attention to himself and to his stance on this issue without having to say a word."
Planned Parenthood claimed the videos are edited and misleading, and some federal officials have launched inquiries into their legality. However, LaBorde called the videos an educational tool and said the issue of abortion is a personal one for all the governor's staff.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services warned state officials that pulling Medicaid funding could conflict with federal law. However, LaBorde said the contract was legally terminated using a provision agreed to by both state officials and Planned Parenthood that said either party could leave the contract with 30-day notice.
State health officials also said removing Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid provider list will not create gap in health care access. Current patients can contact Medicaid or DHH for help finding a new provider. Planned Parenthood can also transfer medical records to a patient's new doctor.
The Louisiana State Director of Planned Parenthood, Melissa Flourneoy, released a statement about Governor Jindal showing the videos: