November 13, 2012 — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Friday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Oklahoma Department of Health's decision to end its contract for providing services through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, the Tulsa World reports.
The department terminated the contract, which covered WIC services in the Tulsa area, on Sept. 30, but it provided an extension through the end of the year (Muchmore, Tulsa World, 11/10). WIC provides food vouchers for low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, and infants and children younger than age five.
State officials said they did not renew the contract because of a large decrease in caseloads, problematic billing practices and high costs per participant at PPH facilities. The state said a January 2011 audit found problems with PPH's documentation and billing (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/5).
The suit argues that the department's reasons for not renewing the contract are invalid. The group said its caseload was increasing at the time and that no concerns were raised during routine audits. The suit adds that costs at PPH clinics were slightly higher because they are open for extended hours and on the weekends. Further, the organization was never told its costs were too high.
The filing claims that the Department of Health violated PPH's rights under the First and 14th Amendments "by imposing a penalty on its advocacy for access to safe and legal abortion services, referrals for abortion and/or its association with abortion services."
No Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma provide abortion care (Tulsa World, 11/10).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.