A U.S. district judge has blocked the state of Texas from cutting off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding. This is the sixth instance in which a court has prevented a state from denying Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood: Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have also attempted to make Planned Parenthood ineligible for funds.
On Dec. 20, 2016, the Office of Inspector General at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission sent a final notice informing Planned Parenthood that its participation in the state’s Medicaid program would be discontinued.
Referencing Center for Medical Progress videos released by pro-life activists in 2015, the notice informed Planned Parenthood that the inspector general “finds you are not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner under … state and federal law pertaining to Medicaid providers.”
According to Judge Sam Sparks’ ruling, the notice outlined specific alleged violations of accepted standards of medical practice by Planned Parenthood:
- “A history of deviating from accepted standards to procure samples that meet researcher’s needs.”
- “A history of permitting staff physicians to alter procedures to obtain targeted tissue samples needed for their specific outside research.”
- “A willingness to convert normal pregnancies to the breech position to ensure researchers receive intact specimens.”
- “An admission that ‘we get what we need to do to alter the standard of care where we are still maintaining patient safety, still maintaining efficiency in clinic operations, but we integrate research into it.’”
- “An admission that Planned Parenthood gets requests for ‘information from our study sponsor on what data they need that is not our standard of care,’ and that [Planned Parenthood] provides what is needed by creating a separate research protocol or template that can include medically unnecessary testing.”
- “A willingness to charge more than the costs incurred for procuring fetal tissue.”
Planned Parenthood sought a preliminary injunction claiming that Texas violated a federal statute commonly referred to as the Medicaid “free choice of provider” provision, which says that beneficiaries may obtain medical services “from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person qualified to perform the service or services required … who undertakes to provide him such services … ”
On Tuesday, Sparks sided with Planned Parenthood and issued the requested injunction.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately announced plans to appeal the decision, sharply criticizing the judge’s decision to rule that “willingness to violate state and federal law on manipulating abortion procedures and profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, making false statements to law enforcement, and misleading multiple courts were insufficient grounds for Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood” from the state’s program. Planned Parenthood has denied any illegal activity.
In a press release, Texas Right to Life expressed disappointment in the decision, but added that it “hopes Texas will soon prevail in the decision to award Medicaid contracts to ethical providers that offer health services to Texas women and families”
Congress should follow Texas’ lead and end federal funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers.
Disqualifying Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers from receiving Title X family planning grants, Medicaid reimbursements, and other grants and contracts does not reduce the overall funding for women’s health care.
The funds currently flowing to abortion providers can instead be distributed to health centers that offer comprehensive health care without entanglement with abortion on demand.
Congress should take this step in the context of the upcoming budget reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare, ensuring that package includes a provision (just as the 2015 version of the bill did) that would make Planned Parenthood affiliates ineligible from receiving Medicaid reimbursements for one year after the enactment of the bill.
Ultimately, Congress should send the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in January, to the president’s desk for signature.