Federal judge blocks Texas from cutting Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood

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Prevention Park, located in Houston, Texas, is the largest Planned Parenthood facility in the country. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 Hourick, Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked Texas from cutting Medicaid funding to the 30 Planned Parenthood health centers in the state.

This is especially important because low-income Americans account for an overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood patients, with nearly 80 percent living with incomes of 150 percent of the federal poverty level or less.  Medicaid is a federal social program that provides funding to low-income citizens for health care purposes. In Texas, Planned Parenthoods serve an estimated 12,500 Medicaid patients, according to The New York Times.

By attempting to bar Medicaid funds, the Texas government targeted its most vulnerable residents and sought to cut them off from valuable life-saving services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraception and tests and treatments for sexually-transmitted infections and HIV. After all, the Hyde Amendment of 1976 prohibited Medicaid funds from being used for abortions, with exceptions being made only if the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

The Texas inspector general issued a termination notice of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding on Dec. 20, 2016, claiming that the health centers were unable to provide medical services “in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.”

As proof of Planned Parenthood’s alleged incompetence, some lawmakers pointed to videos secretly recorded more than a year ago by anti-abortion activists that purported to show Planned Parenthood doctors attempting to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the videos were deceptively edited.

Judge Sam Sparks, the U.S. District Court for the Western District Judge, explicitly addressed these claims in Tuesday’s ruling, writing:

“A secretly recorded video, fake names, a grand jury indictment, congressional investigations—these are the building blocks of a best-selling novel rather than a case concerning the interplay of federal and state authority through the Medicaid program. Yet rather than a villain plotting to take over the world, the subject of this case is the State of Texas’ efforts to expel a group of health care providers from a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources.”

Sparks’ words hit the nail on the head, and hopefully his ruling will be upheld as the case proceeds through the appellate level. If not, it could be disastrous for the thousands of Texas residents who rely on Medicaid and Planned Parenthood.

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