Texas moves closer to defunding Planned Parenthood

December 21, 2016, 3:01pm

Texas Republicans came one step closer to their goal of defunding Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, after state health officials filed a final legal notice to cut all Medicaid funding from the organization.

Planned Parenthood has 15 days to request a hearing with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to stop the funding cuts from going into effect, according to the Texas Tribune, which received a copy of the filing. The health care organization says it will challenge the filing in court by seeking a preliminary injunction on a lawsuit filed in November of last year when the state first threatened to cut the funding.

Planned Parenthood provides a range of health services to about 11,000 low-income women in Texas per year with Medicaid funding. The organization’s affiliates in Texas received more than $4.2 million in Medicaid funding last year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (there are 34 centers in Texas, but Medicaid funding doesn’t necessarily go to all of them). The money goes toward providing health care for low-income people, such as cancer screenings, STD screening, and pregnancy testing. No federal tax dollars go toward paying for abortions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began the quest to defund Planned Parenthood last October, in response to undercover videos filmed by an anti-abortion activist group showed Planned Parenthood employees discussing selling fetal tissue for medical research. Texas Republicans argued that the videos showed Planned Parenthood broke the law.

Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen sent a letter to Planned Parenthood saying, “Your actions violate generally accepted medical standards, as reflected in state and federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination.”

That argument is unlikely to hold up in court because the videos were shown to be purposely doctored and misleading, and the group that released them was indicted by a Texas grand jury. Planned Parenthood sued the state last October and was allowed to continue its operations.

The effort to defund Planned Parenthood in Texas is unlikely go forward considering that Republicans have already tried and failed to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in other states. Similar attempts were shot down by federal courts in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kansas. In Louisiana, a federal judge ruled that the state could not cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood because it would leave poor women with few options elsewhere for affordable health care. Shortly after Texas moved to defund Planned Parenthood last year, federal officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told state officials that their attempts to cut funding would violate federal law.

Planned Parenthood is vowing to fight to stay open. Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement:“This is not over, and we will leave no stone unturned to protect access to care. We have seen the devastation caused to Texans when the state blocks access to care at Planned Parenthood. Already, tens of thousands of people are going without birth control, cancer screenings, HIV tests, and other care. The maternal mortality rate continues to rise. Yet Greg Abbott is hell-bent on chasing this ideological agenda, regardless of how many women it hurts.”

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker