Arkansas and Utah join 3 other states in defunding Planned Parenthood amid row

Anti-abortion marchers hold a rally in Washington D.C. protesting 40 years of legal abortion in the US in this Jan. 26, 2013 file photo.Reuters

Two more states in the US—Arkansas and Utah—have decided to end state funding to women's reproductive healthcare provider Planned Parenthood following earlier moves taken by Louisiana, Alabama and New Hampshire amid the controversy spawned by a series of undercover videos purportedly indicating the dismemberment of aborted babies and the sale of their parts and tissues to medical researchers.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered the Department of Human Services to terminate its existing agreements with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, effective 30 days from Aug. 14.

"It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organisation does not represent the values of the people of our state, and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them. This includes their affiliated organisation, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma," said Hutchinson in a statement.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Arkansas get about $51,000 a year in Medicaid payments, according to The Hill.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered Friday all "state agencies to cease acting as an intermediary for pass-through federal funds to Planned Parenthood."

"The allegations against Planned Parenthood are deeply troubling. Current Utah state law prohibits the use of state funds to provide abortions by Planned Parenthood or any other organisation. The federal government has provided grants to Planned Parenthood, distributed through the Utah Department of Health. These funds are also prohibited from being used to perform abortions," he said.

The actions taken by the states are in defiance of a warning issued by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that terminating funding to Planned Parenthood may violate federal law.

"CMS has notified states who have taken action to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law," said Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ben Wakana, referring to Louisiana and Alabama.

He said, "longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider. By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings."

Planned Parenthood said the actions taken by Hutchinson and other states are "clearly a violation of the Medicaid statute that requires that a woman have her choice among qualified providers."

"This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests and other lifesaving care," said Angie Remington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations in the videos released by the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress.