Texas Can Remove Planned Parenthood From Medicaid Program, Judge Rules

Texas Can Remove Planned Parenthood From Medicaid Program, Judge Rules
A Planned Parenthood logo on a clinic in a file photo. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

A state district court has given the green light for Texas to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program.

In her ruling on Wednesday, State District Judge Lora Livingston sided with state officials, who have been seeking to oust Planned Parenthood from Medicaid since 2015. The abortion provider sued the state last month, arguing that its health clinics were not properly notified about terminating the Medicaid agreement before their Medicaid funds were cut off.

Livingston, who granted last month a 14-day extension of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding, wrote in her decision that since Planned Parenthood has already challenged its termination in a federal court, it’s not up to a state court to determine whether state officials didn’t followed the proper termination procedures.

In November, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that had blocked Texas from removing Planned Parenthood in 2017, ruling that Medicaid beneficiaries don’t have the right to challenge how states determine which providers are qualified to receive the program’s funding.

“This decision is not made lightly,” Livingston wrote. “In the light of the ongoing public health crisis, the risks of the individual losing health care and medical attention requires increased attention and scrutiny.”

Planned Parenthood decried the decision, saying that thousands of low-income patients who use its clinics for services that are not related to abortion, such as STD testing and cancer screenings, will be forced to find new providers.

“The 8,000 Planned Parenthood patients who rely on Medicaid should be able to access care at the provider they know and trust. Without access to the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care Planned Parenthood provides, thousands of lives are now at even greater risk,” Dyana Limon-Mercado, the executive director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement.

The state effort to exclude Planned Parenthood from Texas Medicaid started in 2015, when pro-life organization Center for Medical Progress published a video showing representatives of a Houston clinic talking about selling fetal tissue to researchers.

“Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said last year. “Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.”

At the federal level, Medicaid funding has been restricted for abortions for decades by what’s commonly known as the Hyde Amendment.

Enacted in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, the Hyde Amendment blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. It is not a permanent statute, but exists by being added to federal spending bills every year.