The Louisiana legislators’ call for scrutiny of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast asks the state health agency to do things it already does and is required to do under state and federal laws, the state’s health chief said.
“We are doing everything possible to make sure they are abiding by those statutes,” state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said. Planned Parenthood is in compliance as far as the health agency is concerned and there have been no violations.
Other officials — such as the inspector general and legislative auditor — are puzzled about their role in the monitoring sought by legislators as the health care group expands its services to become an abortion provider.
News that Planned Parenthood would offer abortion services at a new $4 million health center under construction in New Orleans sparked two legislative resolutions putting a spotlight on the group.
The privately funded center is scheduled for completion at the end of 2014 or early 2015.
While a national leader in providing abortions, Planned Parenthood clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans do not perform abortions. The group offers basic and affordable health care to women, men and families, including cancer screenings, birth control, HIV testing, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood officials see the Louisiana activity as part of a national effort to discredit the health care provider. Self-proclaimed conservative groups and lawmakers around the nation, most recently in Florida and Illinois, have pushed similar condemnations.
Planned Parenthood communications director Julie Mickleberry said the legislative attention was “all about the public relations kind of circus.”
Mickleberry said the specific rules and regulations the resolutions urges are generally “what any provider is supposed to do,” but because its Planned Parenthood, it was sensationalized.
“Like any other health care provider, we follow federal and state laws and regulations,” Mickleberry said. “We are not concerned.”
Legislative sponsors state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, and state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said the resolutions were designed to send a message about abortion.
“Do I believe that it was absolutely necessary? No,” Martiny said. “It’s important that we remind them (agencies), in case you don’t know, these people are now at least involved in the abortion business.”
Hoffmann said he is not critical of everything Planned Parenthood does.
“If they did not provide abortions, I don’t think you would hear much from me about them,” he said.
The resolutions cite laws such as those banning public funding of abortions and abortion counseling and those involving the licensing and other requirements for legal operation of an abortion clinic.
For fiscal year 2013, DHH made $575,044.62 fee-for-service Medicaid provider payments to the two Planned Parenthood providers for family planning and sexually transmitted infections screening services.
Louisiana is one of 32 states that follows federal Medicaid standards funding abortions only in cases involving life endangerment, rape and incest. Eighteen states go further but must use state-only dollars to cover abortions that go beyond the federal standard.
Kliebert said Planned Parenthood has not been found in violation of any Medicaid provider agreements for providing health services “or anything else” as it relates to its dealings with the state. “If we get a complaint we investigate but we don’t have any ... Nothing whatsoever,” she said.
As an abortion provider, Planned Parenthood would have to meet the same licensing and other laws covering other such providers, she said.
Another part of the resolution was designed to ensure that the state was not giving Planned Parenthood any kind of tax breaks or incentives through the state economic development agency as it developed the New Orleans health center.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said his agency can find no record of Planned Parenthood “applying to participate in any LED-managed incentive program.”
“Based on an initial review, we also do not believe our staff has spoken with them,” Moret said.
Inspector General Stephen Street said it appears the Legislature is interested in oversight once the new health center opens.
“We will do the best we can to comply with the specifics and intent of the resolution,” Street said. “I sure we will all try to put our heads together and divvy up the responsibilities.”
“I really don’t know what we are going to do at this point,” Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said. “Hopefully, I can get all the agencies together and maybe do a collaborative project on it.”
“The Division will comply with the resolution,” administration communications director Michael DiResto said.
He referred to a legal citation in the resolution that covers the use of public funds.