Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Medicaid Cash

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas did what's been inevitable for a couple of weeks and sued the state of Texas in federal court Monday. The suit comes after Governor Greg Abbott and officials at the Texas Office of the Inspector General said in October that they would stop any Planned Parenthood in the state from receiving any Medicaid funding.

The cutoff hasn't happened yet, but when and if it does, Planned Parenthood will not receive any of the federal money it currently gets for well-woman care in Texas. The OIG says that Planned Parenthood shouldn't get the cash because of the organization's alleged misdeeds with regard to fetal tissue donation, the ones that aren't documented in the dubiously edited "undercover" videos recorded by the Center for Medical Progress. The OIG says Planned Parenthood used special procedures during abortions at the end of which tissue was going to be donated. Planned Parenthood says it didn't.

After Abbott crowed about what he deemed Texas' "completely end[ing] taxpayer funding [to] Planned Parenthood," the federal government told him he and the state probably couldn't do that.

“Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider,” Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement issued October 28. “Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk."

The state governments of Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Utah have similarly tried to cut off Medicaid funds for their states' Planned Parenthood clinics, only to be slapped by federal courts that have agreed with HHS. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is now asking for a similar ruling in Texas.

“Politicians in Texas seem to have decided it’s their job to think of new and creative ways they can decimate women’s reproductive health and rights. We have seen the very real and very devastating consequences for Texas women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood — with tens of thousands going without access to birth control, HIV tests and cancer screenings,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Monday. “Texas is a cautionary tale for the whole nation — with politicians in Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio and Louisiana trying to do the very same thing. Taken together, these measures threaten to devastate access to critical healthcare and education across vast regions of the country — all in the name of politics. Officials who oppose women’s health may think they can bully us out of providing care for our patients, but we will not back down, and we will not shut our doors.”

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is joined in its suit by 10 anonymous patients. Kendra Hudson, a patient spokeswoman, told media Monday that she'd identified an abnormal growth with the help of Planned Parenthood. Because of the growth's early detection, Hudson said, she and her doctors were able to prevent the growth from turning into cancer.

Hal C. Lawrence, the executive vice president and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that poor women will feel the brunt of Texas' new funding restrictions if they're not stopped by the federal court.

“Preventing health centers affiliated with Planned Parenthood from treating women, in Texas or other states, will without question keep women from getting important preventive care and screening services,” Lawrence said. “We cannot continue imposing barriers to care on women. And when we do it in a way that disproportionately impacts underserved or low-income women, we are growing the health disparities that we should be focused on reducing.”
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young