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The Brief: Oct. 23, 2015

Texas health officials on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, making visits to facilities in four cities.

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Texas health officials on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, making visits to facilities in four cities.

The object of their visits were records, reported the Tribune's Alexa Ura, including "Medicaid records, billing information and personnel information... Additionally, investigators delivered subpoenas to at least three facilities requesting all records, including 'ultrasound records,' related to Medicaid patients who donated fetal tissue after obtaining an abortion."

This move comes days after the state announced its intent to bar Planned Parenthood's participation in Medicaid well-woman care programs such as cancer screenings and birth control. The inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission wrote in a letter on Monday to one Planned Parenthood affiliate that "the women’s health provider had violated state Medicaid rules and put Texans at risk of infection ... Planned Parenthood officials disregarded federal law by agreeing to change the timing or method of abortions in order to procure fetal tissue for medical research."

At another Planned Parenthood facility that does not perform abortions, officials sought "records related to specific services provided to Medicaid patients, employee information and appointment books."

Planned Parenthood officials on Thursday called the visits "political grandstanding."

“Representatives from the Texas Office of Inspector General showed up at Planned Parenthood health centers in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio looking for an excuse to take health care away from thousands of women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive care,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of the organization’s state political arm Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “But what they will see is professional, compassionate and quality health care."

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Quote to Note

“If you let states start deciding that they don’t want to include Jewish clinics or black clinics or people who wear tacky clothes-clinics or anything beyond that, it is discriminatory." 

  Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities on the state's efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program. State investigators requested a high volume of records from clinics across the state on Thursday.

Today in TribTalk 

Texas Violates 14th Amendment in Denying Birth Certificates, by Jim George – The 14th Amendment to the Constitution makes clear that Texas has an obligation to make sure all children who are born in this state have a birth certificate issued shortly after birth — even those of undocumented immigrants.

News From Home

•    SpaceX and Blue Origin have big — and sometimes secretive — plans for commercial space flight from South and West Texas. While some of the companies’ neighbors are hopeful this new space race will bring economic development and jobs to their communities, others are skeptical, fearing the effects on beaches, wildlife and small-town life. Take a look at the Tribune's latest project, Starstruck

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUTIn 2008, POLITICO and Huffington Post took center stage in the presidential race. In 2012… we saw the rise of BuzzFeed. In 2016, some think this will be the year of Snapchat. To explain what election coverage on Snapchat means, The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root and KUT’s Ben Philpott talk with Peter Hamby, Head of News at Snapchat.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht on Oct. 29 in Austin

•    A daylong higher education symposium on Nov. 16 at Baylor University in Waco

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