Well, it's finally happened.
Texas officials finally got around to using the controversial Planned Parenthood fetal tissue videos to actually defund Planned Parenthood.
The Texas Office of the Inspector General announced Monday morning that Planned Parenthood affiliates will be excluded from the state's Medicaid program because of alleged violations observed in "sting videos" released by the antiabortion group the Center for Medical Progress over the summer.
Planned Parenthood organizations across the state received a five-page letter from the Inspector General's Office informing them that their enrollment in the joint state-federal Medicaid program was in the process of being terminated because the organizations were potentially "liable, directly or by affiliation, for a series of serious Medicaid program violations."
In those videos, undercover antiabortion activists posed as reps from a tissue procurement company and met with Planned Parenthood officials. Upon releasing the videos, the activists alleged that Planned Parenthood had been raking in the money from tissue donation reimbursements. A video from inside a Houston abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, was released in August.
"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 state's letter to Planned Parenthood clinics says, according to the Associated Press.
State officials started pushing for an investigation into Planned Parenthood after the first of several sting videos were released back in July, resulting in an investigation conducted by Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton's office, the Health and Human Services Commission and a state senate committee. The results of that investigation have yet to be released.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials have continually denied that they did anything wrong and have contended that the videos were highly edited and skewed to serve the agenda of the Center for Medical Progress and the whole antiabortion movement. Pro-choice activists have continued to defend Planned Parenthood, saying the videos were a hit job intended to demonize a legal medical practice.
“This is just another baseless attack on Texans’ reproductive health care — the state is using heavily-edited videos created by extremist anti-abortion activists as an excuse to block access to affordable health care," NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby said in a prepared statement. "The ongoing politically motivated attacks on reproductive health care are creating a public health crisis. Low-income Texans have systematically been denied access to preventative health care including birth control, and extreme state laws have forced clinics to close and devastated access to abortion."
This latest move isn't really even that much of a surprise, since Texas has been steadily finding ways to choke off most state funding for Planned Parenthood for the past few years, including the decision to kick the organization out of the Texas Women's Health Program. Back in June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state budget, which included a provision to keep Planned Parenthood from participating in the joint state-federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program — despite the fact that a law was already in place that said the 17 participating Planned Parenthood organizations in Texas couldn't be in the program or be receiving any state tax dollars if they were performing abortions, so these weren't even abortion clinics in the first place.
Abbott sent out a statement practically crowing over the state's latest effort to keep tax dollars away from Planned Parenthood.
“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," he stated in a release.
Texas isn't the first state to try this Medicaid angle in the wake of those controversial videos. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had ordered his state to block funding to Planned Parenthood because of the videos, but Planned Parenthood sued over Louisiana's attempt to yank the funding for non-abortion services like gynecology exams and cancer screenings.
But the federal government has been responsive on this point. In August, President Barack Obama's administration warned state officials in Louisiana and Alabama that their own efforts to try to defund Planned Parenthood are most likely in violation of federal law because of a 2011 agency guidance that says that states cannot discriminate against Medicaid health-care providers simply because they provide abortion services with non-federal dollars. Still, that doesn't seem to have given Texas officials any qualms about trying it out for themselves. On top of that, on Monday a federal judge ordered Jindal to continue funding Planned Parenthood for 14 more days.
Thus the odds are good that Texas will be facing some opposition from the federal government on this latest move to get rid of all things Planned Parenthood. Chances are good there's another lawsuit on the horizon.
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