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Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Removal from Medicaid Program

Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliates on Monday filed a federal lawsuit to keep state health officials from booting them from the Medicaid program.

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*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliates on Monday filed a federal lawsuit to keep state health officials from booting them from the state’s Medicaid program.

Following Texas’ announcement in October that it would stop funding any care for poor women at Planned Parenthood clinics — a response to what state officials called “acts of misconduct” revealed in undercover anti-abortion videos — the women’s health organization is asking the courts for a reprieve.

Ten patients joined Planned Parenthood in the lawsuit, according to the organization. Kendra Hudson of Houston, a patient spokeswoman, said a pap smear she got at a Planned Parenthood clinic allowed her to identify an abnormal growth and prevent it from developing into cancer.

"They were the provider that I trusted and felt comfortable with," Hudson told reporters on Monday. By cutting off Medicaid funding to the women’s health organization, Planned Parenthood argues that thousands of other women could lose access to similar services they couldn't get elsewhere.

The state’s move wouldn’t just end state funding for Planned Parenthood services like pregnancy tests, contraception and cancer screenings. It would also end the allocation of federal dollars to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurer of last resort that is administered by Texas. In 2015, Texas spent $310,000 of its own money on the women’s health organization while distributing $2.8 million in federal dollars. 

Republican state leaders have long worked to cut taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions at some of its Texas clinics — but none that receive state or federal dollars. After videos were released depicting Planned Parenthood officials across the nation discussing how their providers obtain fetal tissue for medical research, the state moved to cut Medicaid funding from the women’s health organization.

Among the videos were recordings of staff at Houston-based Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, where two abortion foes in April misrepresented themselves as research executives and provided fake California drivers’ licenses.

Planned Parenthood has criticized the videos as being heavily edited and obtained under false pretenses. But the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s inspector general, Stuart Bowen, wrote in a letter to Planned Parenthood that they served as proof that the women’s health provider had violated Medicaid rules by altering the time or scenario of abortions. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast says it does not currently provide fetal tissue for medical research but did so in 2010 as part of a University of Texas Medical Branch study on miscarriage.

The legal challenge in Texas is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed across the country over how Medicaid dollars are disbursed to Planned Parenthood clinics. Texas’ move comes weeks after a federal district court in Louisiana temporarily halted similar efforts there until the courts could better examine the issue. Other lawsuits are also making their way through the courts in Alabama and Arkansas.

Federal health officials notified the Texas Health and Human Services Commission late last month that kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid could be a violation of U.S. law.

This isn’t the first time Planned Parenthood has sued the state over being pushed out of a joint federal-state program. In 2012, Planned Parenthood took to the courts to challenge Texas’ Republican-led effort to kick the organization out of the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which covered family planning services and cancer screenings for poor women.

In that case, which Planned Parenthood eventually lost, Texas officials had argued that federal Medicaid laws gave individual states the authority to determine which health providers were qualified to participate. Meanwhile, the Obama administration argued Texas had violated federal law by limiting where poor women could seek health care. The feds ultimately halted their $9-to-$1 match for the program, forcing Texas to relaunch the program with state dollars alone.

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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