Planned Parenthood Sues Texas on Proposed Medicaid Fund Cuts

  • Supreme Court is reviewing state law aimed at abortion doctors
  • Clinics have won orders restoring Medicaid funds in 4 states

Planned Parenthood sued Texas to stop it from slashing public funds the clinics use to provide reproductive care to poor women.

State health officials moved last month to pull the provider’s Medicaid contracts, citing a billing practices investigation and allegedly unethical conduct tied to undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this month to review a 2013 Texas law that would force clinics to meet hospital-like surgical standards and require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Texas says the rules safeguard patient safety, while opponents say the real aim is to reduce access to abortion.

The high court’s ruling, expected in June, may decide the legality of such restrictions, pushed in recent years by several states to more closely regulate abortion clinics. By law, Medicaid funds can’t pay for abortions except in very narrow circumstances.

Planned Parenthood affiliates have been fighting similar Medicaid cutbacks in federal courts in at least four other states. The clinics have won court orders at least temporarily restoring the funding in all four.

‘Cautionary Tale’

“Texas is a cautionary tale for the whole nation -- with politicians in Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio and Louisiana trying to do the same thing,” Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood, said in an e-mailed statement. “Taken together, these measures threaten to devastate access to critical health care and education across vast regions of the country -- all in the name of politics.”

Texas justified ejecting Planned Parenthood from Medicaid by citing claims in the undercover videos that clinic personnel allegedly altered abortion procedures to obtain intact fetal body parts and then illegally profited from the sale of that tissue. Planned Parenthood, which no longer accepts reimbursement for the cost of donating fetal tissue, has repeatedly denounced the videos as deceptively edited. Nine states have cleared the clinics of any wrongdoing, while seven other states have declined to investigate the claims in the videos.

Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliates received about $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements during the 2015 fiscal year to treat roughly 13,000 patients. Republican lawmakers previously stripped most other state funding from the provider.

Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s office, declined to comment, saying the state hasn’t yet seen the lawsuit.

The case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Traylor, 1:15-cv-01058, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin).

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