By Bob Allen
Alabama’s Southern Baptist governor announced Aug. 6 that he is ending the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, citing controversial videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of organs from aborted fetuses.
Gov. Robert Bentley indicated in a letter to Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, that the state is exercising its ability to terminate its Alabama Medicaid Provider Agreement with 15 days written notice.
“The deplorable practices at Planned Parenthood have been exposed to Americans,” Bentley said in a statement. “I’ve terminated any association with the organization in Ala.”
Bentley, a Republican and retired dermatologist, is a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., serving as a Sunday school teacher and four-time chairman of deacons. He discussed his faith in an interview with the Alabama Baptist while running for governor in 2010.
“As a doctor and Alabama’s governor, the issue of human life, from conception to birth and beyond, is extremely important,” Bentley said Aug. 6. “I respect human life and do not want Alabama to be associated with an organization that does not.”
Russell Moore, head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, applauded the decision. “Thank you Gov. Bentley for terminating Alabama’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood,” Moore posted on Twitter.
As a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from 2002 until 2010, Bentley proposed a constitutional amendment to “prohibit an abortion for any reason except in an extreme case where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or where there is rape or incest.” In 2013 he signed a bill requiring that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, a measure backed by pro-life groups and opposed by Planned Parenthood.
Fox said in a statement that what defunding Planned Parenthood really means is taking away health care services for the thousands of people who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for basic health care.
“We are disappointed that Governor Bentley has been distracted by a deceptive attack against our organization instead of staying focused on what really matters to women in Alabama,” Fox said. “What Alabamians need is more access to health care, not less.”
Bentley’s action comes on the heels of a similar move Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals informed Planned Parenthood Aug. 3 it is exercising its right to terminate Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider agreement.
“In recent weeks, it has been shocking to see reports of the alleged activities taking place at Planned Parenthood facilities across the country,” Jindal said. “Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life. It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state.”
In addition to sponsoring several bills aimed at curbing abortion as a legislator, Bentley was responsible for two major revisions of Alabama’s organ donor laws. One was specific to corneas and the other made it more difficult to challenge an organ donor’s decisions.
As governor he proclaimed April 2011 as “Donate Life Month,” promoting organ procurement “to close the disparity between the need for and the availability of transplantable organs and tissues.”