State Politics

Planned Parenthood in Texas will fight being kicked out of Medicaid program

Protesters outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth in 2015 called for the defunding of the organization.
Protesters outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth in 2015 called for the defunding of the organization. Laura Buckman/Special to the Sta

Planned Parenthood officials on Wednesday promised to do what they can politically and legally to ensure low-income women in Fort Worth and statewide will be able to receive services from the organization, despite the most recent blow to their state funding.

This pledge comes one day after state officials legally notified the organization that it would no longer get funding from the Texas Medicaid program, a loss of about $3.1 million a year.

The funding is likely to end in about a month, although Planned Parenthood officials plan to seek a preliminary injunction to fight the loss of funding.

“Texans deserve to decide where to receive their healthcare, and for more than 80 years they have counted on Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas for that care,” Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said in a written statement.

“In the days ahead we will take every step necessary to ensure Medicaid patients can continue to count on Planned Parenthood for quality, accessible healthcare. In the meantime, our doors remain open for everyone, regardless of their income or insurance status, no matter what.”

Abortion has long been a heated topic in Texas as conservative lawmakers have worked to limit clinics and patients alike.

Abortion has long been a heated topic in Texas as conservative lawmakers have steadily worked through the years to put in place restrictions on clinics and patients alike. More than a year ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to remove the group from the Medicaid program.

At the heart of this week’s ruling, and looming legal battle, is an investigation into an undercover video that determined the group is “not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner under the relevant provisions of state and federal law pertaining to Medicaid providers,” according to the legal notice by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of the Inspector General.

The letter states that the video in question was by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion rights group. Unedited footage allegedly shows Planned Parenthood employees in Houston discussing ways to “procure fetal tissue … even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion.”

“Gov. Abbott has made clear that Texas will not subsidize an organization that admits a willingness to alter an abortion procedure in order to profit off the harvesting of baby body parts,” said Clara Matthews, deputy communications director for the governor.

“Texans expect that when taxpayer dollars are granted to healthcare providers, it is only to those who demonstrate that the health and safety of their patients come before a profit motive that puts women at greater risk.”

Planned Parenthood officials have long denied the allegations, saying they follow the law. But the videos prompted a national outcry from abortion opponents who called for the government to cut off all funding for the reproductive health services and abortion provider.

A grand jury cleared the clinic of wrongdoing and instead indicted videographers for the Center for Medical Progress, but those charges were later dismissed.

“The state of Texas has done the job,” said Kyleen Wright, president of the Arlington-based Texans for Life Coalition. “They have done a thorough investigation for a year now and looked into these matters.

“It’s very clear that from the evidence they have, … they were putting profits over the safety of women.”

‘A long time coming’

Planned Parenthood runs clinics across the state — including the Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, a privately funded $6.5 million licensed ambulatory surgical center that opened in 2013 — that serve around 11,000 women in Texas each year through Medicaid.

Lambrect said Medicaid patients in Texas often seek general healthcare such as well women services, clinical breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, HIV tests and birth control from the clinics. These services could be stripped away from those who need it if the state is successful in their latest move.

The state’s final notice of termination to Planned Parenthood, dated Dec. 20, states that the video shows a number of violations “of generally accepted standards of medical practice” and that “Planned Parenthood violated state and federal law.”

Local Republican lawmakers cheered the ruling.

I look forward to making sure they never receive another taxpayer dollar from the state of Texas during the next session.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford

“I am absolutely ecstatic about it,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. “I think it’s great. And I look forward to making sure they never receive another taxpayer dollar from the state of Texas during the next session.

“This has been a long time coming, in my opinion.”

Planned Parenthood may appeal the decision over the next 15 days by asking for an administrative hearing. Officials say they’ll seek a preliminary injunction in the next few weeks in a lawsuit that was filed last year after the state targeted the organization. They’ve already added a new attorney to their 2015 complaint against Texas.

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said this ruling shows that GOP leaders in Texas aren’t factoring in the health and needs of low-income residents.

“Texas Republicans must be reminded that under the ‘freedom to choose’ Medicaid provision, they cannot pick and choose which providers are suitable for Texas women based off their political agenda,” said Veasey, a former state representative in Texas.

Heading to court?

According to the letter, Planned Parenthood’s “misconduct is directly related to whether you are qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.

“Your actions violate generally accepted medical standards, as reflected in state and federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination,” the letter stated.

Investigations by more than a dozen other states didn’t lead to similar funding moves. Texas’s decision comes as the organization is still trying to keep Congress from ending taxpayer funding as well.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said the state’s actions in this case “are shameful.”

The state will be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, likely, in litigation expenses defending this decision in court. That’s where this will end up.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie

“Many Texas women will in effect be denied access to life-saving healthcare,” he said. “And the state will be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, likely, in litigation expenses defending this decision in court. That’s where this will end up.”

State Sen. Konni Burton disagrees, saying she fully supports the state’s decision.

“Tax dollars should never go to an organization that provides abortions,” said Burton, R-Colleyville. “Texans have made it clear where they stand on this issue with their continued support of pro-life legislators. Medicaid dollars should not go to health care providers who support abortion … This decision is a win-win for Texas.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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