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A state district judge in Travis County has temporarily stopped Texas from kicking Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program, after the health provider filed an emergency lawsuit in a bid to keep providing non-abortion services to thousands of low-income patients.
In a last-minute proceeding on Wednesday, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble granted a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Feb. 17.
The state had given Planned Parenthood's Medicaid patients until Wednesday to find new doctors after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas officials who have long sought to block the health provider from participating in the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor.
It is difficult to qualify for Medicaid in Texas, which has the highest uninsured rate nationwide. A single parent with two children cannot make more than $230 a month.
A lower court blocked the state from removing Planned Parenthood from Medicaid in 2017 but was overruled by the 5th Circuit in November, in a development cheered by state officials including Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Planned Parenthood asked for a six-month delay to help its Medicaid patients find new doctors, citing the ongoing pandemic. The state health commission granted a 30-day grace period that was scheduled to end this month.
Texas does not pay for abortions through its Medicaid program except in extremely limited circumstances, such as rape or incest.
Dyana Limon-Mercado, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the health provider's political arm in Texas, said the governor's "attempts to block Medicaid patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers is the latest in a long history of Texas politicians trying to score points with relentless attacks on Planned Parenthood patients."
Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the health commission said it was not appropriate for them to comment on pending litigation.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism.