House bill would scrutinize Planned Parenthood project

A state House panel on Tuesday endorsed a measure putting Planned Parenthood operations in Louisiana under scrutiny as it prepares to build a health center in New Orleans where abortions will be provided.

House Resolution 105 also urges suspension of grants and reimbursements under state contracts or Medicaid provider agreements for family planning and other services pending investigation of fraudulent billing practices alleged in two federal lawsuits. The lawsuits do not involve Louisiana operations.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is scheduled to break ground Wednesday on a $4.2 million facility on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans.

The House Health and Welfare Committee also approved a Senate-passed bill that would ban abortion via telemedicine in Louisiana.

“This bill is playing offense to a practice that is taking place in other states,” said Senate Bill 90 sponsor Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville.

Mills’ legislation addresses pregnancies that are terminated after a remote consultation over the Internet with a doctor. Mills wants a physician to be in the room when the abortion drugs are administered and access to a physician if problems develop in the pregnancy termination.

“Termination of pregnancy is an extra serious matter,” said Dr. Mike Hindelang, a retired OB-GYN. “Physicians should be present to handle any emergency that should occur.”

Planned Parenthood representatives did not testify on either measure. Lobbyist D.W. Hunt put in a card noting the group’s opposition.

The House Health and Welfare Committee approved both measures, without objection, sending them to the House floor for action.

Most of the discussion came on HR 105, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. The resolution is similar to Senate Concurrent Resolution 57 dealing with expanded Planned Parenthood activities. SCR57 won easy Senate passage on Monday.

Hoffmann said Planned Parenthood has not been providing abortions in Louisiana at either of its locations — one in New Orleans and another in Baton Rouge. But with its affiliation with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and construction of the new facility, it is becoming an abortion provider, he said.

Because of that, he said, the organization needs more intense scrutiny.

“They say they want to provide more health care for women,” said Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director. “The goal of expanding their services is only to begin offering abortion services.”

She said the group starts out early promoting and providing sex education to those at tender ages.

Johnson, involved in the federal legal action, told the committee about business practices that led her to resign in 2009, including established quotas on the number of abortions in a given year and improper billing for Medicaid services. She said the Houston center — the heart of the Gulf Coast operation — is “the largest abortion facility in the Western Hemisphere.”

State Rep. Harvey LeBas, D-Ville Platte, said the ending of someone’s life “is not something we want in our state.”

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said she had researched what Johnson shared with the committee. “I’m quite frankly shocked,” Stokes said.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Louisiana director Melissa Flournoy issued a statement which said in part, that Hoffmann’s resolution “threatens Louisianans access to basic, preventive health care from a trusted provider.”

Flournoy said Planned Parenthood offers physical exams, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, family planning assistance and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases as well as sexual health education.

Hoffmann’s resolution would request various state and local agencies, including the state health agency, legislative auditor and inspector general, to investigate and monitor Planned Parenthood’s compliance with all state and federal laws. Those laws include bans on state funding of abortion facilities and activities, counseling or recommendation of abortion by a state contractor, the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, parental consent for minors seeking an abortion and informed consent.

The resolution urges rejection by state economic development officials of any attempt by the group to get economic incentives and that local and state permitting ensure sanitary disposal of human remains.