Judge rules Texas cannot cut Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics in Texas can continue to provide health services under Medicaid, writing that the state’s arguments for removing those clinics from the program were “the building blocks of a best-selling novel rather than a case concerning the interplay of federal and state authority through the Medicaid program.”

The ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, is a win for pro-choice and reproductive rights advocates, following a year and a half back-and-forth between Texas and Planned Parenthood. 

Texas announced plans to kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid in October 2015 after the release of an eight-hour video in which Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast employees appeared to admit to selling aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations and called the heavily edited video misleading. Then in December, the provider’s networks of Greater Texas, Gulf Coast, and South Texas sued the state.

Though the plan to cut Planned Parenthood from Texas’s Medicaid program was scheduled for last month, Sparks granted a temporary injunction in order to review the lawsuit and documents more closely. 

According to the Texas Tribune, attorneys for Planned Parenthood argued that not having the health provider stay under the Medicaid program would diminish access to preventative and sexual health services for poorer Texans. The state’s attorneys, however, relied on the video footage, which Sparks wrote contained “unclear and ambiguous dialogue” that hadn’t been authenticated. Sparks ultimately ruled that Texas sought to remove Texas clinics associated with Planned Parenthood from Medicaid “without cause.”

“Such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider,” Sparks’s ruling read, sprinkled with the phrase “no evidence.”

Furthermore, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state Medicaid programs cannot exclude qualified health care providers just because they also provide abortion procedures. And the Hyde Amendment already limits federal funding for abortions only in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

“We went to court to protect our patients and to state clearly and simply that Texans, not politicians, should decide where to receive their health care,” Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Texas, said in a statement.

Anti-abortion advocates are expectedly unsatisfied with the decision, with a Texas Right to Life spokesperson saying it will continue to push for only “ethical providers” to be allowed under Medicaid.

H/T the Texas Tribune

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.