From the looks of it, 2019 already is looking like a bad year for the pro-life cause.
The state of New York just passed a sweeping abortion bill, allowing for what is arguably infanticide — abortion until birth. The law’s passage was met with raucous applause in the statehouse; and to celebrate the macabre victory, the top of the Freedom Tower, where the World Trade Center once stood, was lit up in pink.
Not to be outdone by the Empire State, the Virginia legislature has been entertaining a similar bill — one that would allow for elective abortions up to 40 weeks gestation.
And while this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., and around the country turned out a large and youthful crowd, the only real reporting on the event occurred after a group of Catholic high school students in attendance had a now infamous encounter with a Native American activist on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
In spite of the apparent ascendance of the pro-abortion left, the procedure’s largest and most conspicuous provider — Planned Parenthood — endured a rather substantial and woefully under-reported blow earlier this month, thanks in part to the relentless efforts of pro-life leaders in the state of Texas.
On Jan. 17, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the state’s right to terminate its Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood affiliates across the state, determining that a lower court had used the wrong legal standard in ruling that the state lacked the authority to expel the provider.
That’s a big deal, considering the millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements at stake.
Writing for the court, Judge Edith Jones didn’t mince words. She chastised the lower court for seeming to claim it possessed expertise in medical procedures superior to that of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of the Inspector General, and for giving no deference to the OIG’s findings or authority.
Texas’ effort to kick the organization out of the state’s Medicaid program wasn’t arbitrary; it came after graphic undercover video footage emerged in 2015 strongly suggesting Planned Parenthood was altering abortion procedures in order to preserve fetal organs and provide them to medical research procurement firms.
In Texas, it is illegal to sell or otherwise profit from tissue donation; the videos provided convincing evidence to the OIG — whose job it is to ensure compliance with the state’s Medicaid policies — that that was exactly what some Planned Parenthood affiliates that operate in Texas were doing.
The videos in question were procured by a transparently pro-life group, the director of which posed as an employee of a medical research firm and met with various Planned Parenthood personnel. Still, the videos were devastating to the abortion industry. So it was no surprise when they were panned, dismissed and assailed by abortion rights groups and the media as being “deceptively edited” or fake.
In his district court ruling, Judge Sam Sparks seemed to agree, himself questioning the videos’ validity.
But the Fifth Circuit had something to say about the videos, too. It determined that the OIG’s investigation and review of the videos was thorough and, in an easily overlooked footnote, that an independent forensic review of the videos had determined that, in fact, they had not been doctored, as had been charged.
And with that, the court not only debunked the entire narrative around the videos, but essentially accused Planned Parenthood of violating federal and state law. That is no small thing.
But the case is not yet settled. The district court has been ordered the review the evidence under a more lenient standard, under which Texas and the cause of life is likely to prevail.
Take heart, pro-lifers. Not all the news so far in 2019 is bad. There is likely to be some good news for the unborn and their mothers in the state of Texas.