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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers want to target Planned Parenthood; H&W says few ties to state

In response to questions from several legislators, Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong has sent an email to all Idaho lawmakers detailing his department’s interactions with Planned Parenthood: They are a Medicaid provider, but the department has no other business connections with the group.

“Medicaid pays Planned Parenthood only for medically necessary services, which includes office visits, blood tests, immunizations, lab tests, pregnancy tests, contraception and ultrasounds,” Armstrong wrote. Over a three-year period from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014, the organization received $79,693 in state Medicaid payments for services provided to patients. During the same time period, Medicaid paid for two abortions performed by Planned Parenthood, Armstrong wrote, paying a total of $108 in state funds. “Medicaid will only pay for abortions in very rare situations: If there is a threat to the mother’s life, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest,” he wrote.

Planned Parenthood could provide cervical and breast cancer screenings through the Idaho Women’s Health Check cancer screening and diagnostic services program, but has not done so and has received no state payments through the program, Armstrong wrote. The organization also receives none of Idaho’s federal grant funding for statewide family planning services; it has its own separate grant directly from the federal government.

The Twin Falls Times-News reported today that several GOP lawmakers are working on bills targeting Planned Parenthood to propose in the Idaho legislative session that starts in January. House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told Times-News reporter Nathan Brown, “It’s really one of the greatest human-rights issues facing our country. We have to make sure we deal with this human-rights issue in the 2016 session.” He said, “Legislators are concerned, legislators are upset, and they’re going to demand action on this issue in the 2016 session.”

In August, Gov. Butch Otter declined a request from nearly 30 GOP lawmakers and the anti-abortion group Idaho Chooses Life to investigate Planned Parenthood, after the release of edited videos by a national anti-abortion group raised questions over whether the organization was profiting from fetal tissue donated for research, an accusation the group denied. Otter wrote that there’s no such program in Idaho, but that he would review existing laws to ensure “practices that have occurred in other states” couldn’t happen here.

Idaho is required to reimburse “any willing provider” for Medicaid services, under both state and federal rules. “We don’t get to pick and choose someone, if they’re licensed and certified and they’re willing,” said H&W spokesman Tom Shanahan. Failure to follow those rules could potentially jeopardize all of Idaho's federal Medicaid funds.

Hannah Brass Greer, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood in Idaho, said the Idaho organization has no tissue donation program. “It’s hard for me to picture what sort of direct attack on Planned Parenthood they could actually launch,” she told the Times-News; the full story is online here.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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