A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, the AP reports. In a 2-1 ruling, an 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel vacated preliminary injunctions a federal judge issued preventing the state from suspending any Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients from Planned Parenthood. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state's Medicaid contract with the organization in 2015. The court ruled the unnamed patients suing the state did not have the right to challenge the defunding decision. The panel did not directly address Arkansas' reason for terminating the contract. The decision could potentially lead to a showdown before the US Supreme Court over efforts by Arkansas and other states to defund Planned Parenthood that have been blocked by other courts.
In a dissenting opinion to Wednesday's ruling, Judge Michael Melloy noted that several other federal courts have ruled the opposite way on defunding and said the patients have a right to challenge the end of Planned Parenthood's contract. Planned Parenthood said it's evaluating options for challenging the appeals court's decision. The ruling does not take effect until the court issues its mandate in about one to two weeks, and Planned Parenthood said it's still serving Medicaid patients in Arkansas. Republican lawmakers and governors around the country targeted the organization after several videos were released by an anti-abortion group, which claimed Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. A Texas grand jury that looked into the videos cleared Planned Parenthood of misusing fetal tissue (Read more Planned Parenthood stories.)