Texas must fund Planned Parenthood, federal judge rules

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Credit: Glynnis Jones via Shutterstock.

Amid the controversy over investigative videos appearing to show illegal activities at Planned Parenthood, a federal judge has temporarily barred Texas from denying Medicaid funding to the abortion provider.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said the decision is “disappointing” and “flies in the face of basic human decency.”

“The raw, unedited footage from undercover videos exposed a brazen willingness by Planned Parenthood officials to traffic in fetal body parts, as well as manipulate the timing and method of an abortion,” he said Feb. 21. “Even the remains of the most vicious criminals are treated with respect.”

“No taxpayer in Texas should have to subsidize this repugnant and illegal conduct,” Paxton added. “We should never lose sight of the fact that, as long as abortion is legal in the United States, the potential for these types of horrors will continue.”

U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction stopping the state from defunding the abortion provider’s 30 health centers, which receive $4 million for services not related to abortion, the New York Times reports.

On Dec. 20, 2016, the inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ruled that Planned Parenthood was unqualified to provide medical services “in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.”

Judge Sparks said that the inspector general did not present “even a scintilla of evidence” that Planned Parenthood was unqualified, that it had profited from fetal tissue, or that a doctor had altered an abortion procedure for any purpose.

Planned Parenthood came under heavy criticism after undercover investigators with the Center for Medical Progress produced videos appearing to show Planned Parenthood staff and leaders engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue and body parts from unborn babies.

Judge Sparks was dismissive of the videos and said the case was about “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.”

The case will go to trial, and Paxton said Texas would appeal the judge’s injunction.

Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, characterized the ruling as a “victory for Texas women.”

Planned Parenthood said its Medicaid-funded services in Texas include breast cancer and cervical cancer screening and treatment, contraception counseling, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and primary health services.

The abortion provider has denied any accusations of wrongdoing and has claimed the videos were deceptively edited.

The videos, first released in July 2015, prompted a massive response from Planned Parenthood backers.

A grant proposal attributed to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations indicated at least $7-$8 million would be spent in a campaign to counter the videos and “transform the narrative.” While the document charged that the videos were doctored, it said the videos’ release was “severe and without warning” and would require “an enormous amount of resources and staff time” for Planned Parenthood to respond.

The grant proposal particularly voiced concern about state-level investigations, especially in Texas.

Federal courts have blocked at least five other states’ attempts to bar Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursements: Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

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