On October 19, the state of Texas moved to eliminate Medicaid funding for medical facilities in the state that are affiliated with Planned Parenthood. While Texas had cut Planned Parenthood from most other contraceptive funding, payments from Medicaid had remain heretofore in place. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that his state retains an "unyielding commitment to both protecting life and providing women's health services." Moreover, said the Republican, “The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end." He added, "Ending the Medicaid participation of Planned Parenthood affiliates in the State of Texas is another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable—the unborn."
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General, in a letter sent state-wide to Planned Parenthood affiliated, said that enrollment in the joint state-federal Medicaid program was being terminated because the affiliated were potentially “liable, directly or by affiliation, for a series of serious Medicaid program violations.” In Texas, Planned Parenthood affiliates receive approximately $3 million to $4 million a year in Medicaid reimbursements, according to the Commission. "The State has determined that you and your Planned Parenthood affiliates are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner," the letter said. "Earlier this year, you committed and condoned numerous acts of misconduct captured on video that reveal repeated program violations and breach the minimum standards of care required of a Medicaid enrollee," wrote Texas Inspector General Stuart Bowen Jr. in the letter.
The move by Texas after the release of a series of undercover videos taken by the Center for Medical Progress, which alleges that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue for profit. For its part, the abortion provider denies the allegations and contends the videos are misleading. Some of the videos were recorded in Houston at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. The abortion clinics have thirty days to contest the termination of funding.
In recent years, Texas has cut in excess of $70 million from the state’s Family Planning Program. As a result, 155 abortion businesses have closed their doors across the state. Texas also imposed stricter standards on abortion providers. Texas’s funding for Planned Parenthood dropped from $27.3 million in fiscal year 2010 to $1.2 million in the fiscal year that ended on August 31. In 2013, state lawmakers removed Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers affiliated with abortion from the Medicaid Women's Health Program, which provides contraceptives, cancer screenings and HIV and STD tests and treatment to low-income women. The federal government, in turn, withdrew funding for the program. Texas currently spends about $36 million per year on the fully state funded program.
The five-page letter sent to Planned Parenthood affiliates read, “Your termination and that of all your affiliates will not affect access to care in this state because there are thousands of alternate providers in Texas, including federally qualified health centers, Medicaid-certified rural health clinics, and other health care providers across the state that participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program and Medicaid.” The missive also alleged that Planned Parenthood had engaged in fraudulent activities, including illegal billing practices.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Executive Director Yvonne Gutierrez said, “Once again, politicians in Austin are showing how little they care about Texans' health care…Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for access to health care and information for all Texans.” It is likely that Planned Parenthood will sue in court to maintain its government subsidies.
Writing at DailyKos, a progressive website, “Meteor Blades” denounced the move by Texas:
“As as (sic) been clear for some time, forced-birthers will do whatever it takes to win: harassing women; fire-bombing clinics; assassinating abortion providers; imposing ridiculous, medically uncalled-for rules on clinics; setting up (and tax-funding of) "pregnancy crisis centers" whose modus operandi includes a steady stream of lies; and cutting off public funding of Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers that dare to even mention abortion as an option even if they don't provide it.”
Last week, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards wrote "The real goal of these extremists has nothing to do with our fetal tissue donation compliance process but is instead to ban abortion in the U.S. and block women from getting any health care from Planned Parenthood." Her organization, nationally, receives approximately a half billion dollars per annum in federal funding.
However, in neighboring Lousiana, taxpayers may have to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Late on October 18, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles signed a temporary restraining order requiring Lousiana to continue its provision of Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates for the next two weeks as the legal challenger over the payments continues.
In 59 pages, Judge deGravelles wrote that Planned Parenthood would probably prove that attempts to end its funding in Louisiana were unrelated to its healthcare competence. He wrote, "In fact, the uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that (Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast) does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities."
Planned Parenthood contends that the defunding effort targeted medical services, including cancer screenings and other healthcare to more than 5,200 low-income patients in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. While Planned Parenthood applauded the court's ruling in Louisiana, a spokeswoman for the organization would not say whether it would challenge Texas in federal court. Planned Parenthood has filed lawsuits against similar moves in Utah, Arkansas and Alabama.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.