Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday in hopes of saving Medicaid funding to the organization's family planning clinics across the state.
The lawsuit follows the decision by state health officials last month to cut off any Medicaid money administered by the state for patients who receive cancer screenings, HIV tests, contraceptives and other preventative health services at Planned Parenthood's Texas clinics. In his letter to clinics last month, state health department Inspector General Stuart Bowen cited a series of undercover videos (which experts have discredited) shot by an anti-abortion group, including at a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic, as evidence “you and your Planned Parenthood affiliates are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner.” In his letter, Bowen suggested his office also has “information suggesting that fraud” has occurred at Planned Parenthood clinics, although the department has failed to provide any more details.
As news of the lawsuit broke Monday, Cecile Richards, daughter of late Texas Governor Ann Richards and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, posted this statement on Facebook:
"Today Planned Parenthood is taking Texas to court on behalf of the 13,500 patients who come to our health centers for care through Medicaid. By canceling Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract politicians are telling women where they can and cannot go for reproductive health care.
This is illegal, and a violation of federal law.
Every time I think they can’t do anything more to block Texas women from getting reproductive health care, they find a way to stoop to a new low. Officials who oppose women’s access to reproductive health care 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."
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Texas isn't the first state that has attempted to ban Planned Parenthood in light of the sting videos shot by anti-abortion activists calling themselves the Center for Medical Progress, nor is it the first state to face push-back in court. Last month a federal judge blocked Louisiana health officials from taking similar action until the case plays out in court.
And the feds have already said that what Texas is attempting to do is probably illegal. Last month, after state health officials descended on Planned Parenthood clinics across the state demanding patient records, officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from arbitrarily “restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider.” As it stands, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas currently serve about 13,500 patients, for which they receive about $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements every year.
“Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Marissa Padilla wrote in a statement last month. "State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk."