Texas Agency Bans Planned Parenthood From Medicaid

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Texas Agency Bans Planned Parenthood From Medicaid

Teddy Wilson

Texas Health and Human Services Commission Inspector General Stuart Bowen issued a letter Monday to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, informing the organization that he was ending its participation in the state's Medicaid program.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Texas has become the latest state to attempt to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in its Medicaid program, citing “acts of misconduct” in secretly recorded videos published in recent months by an anti-choice front group that has seen its work widely discredited.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission Inspector General Stuart Bowen issued a letter Monday to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, informing the organization that he was ending its participation in the state’s Medicaid program.

The letter cited a series of smear videos released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress. The videos, released in coordination with GOP lawmakers, feature heavily-edited footage of surreptitiously taped conversations with Planned Parenthood officials.

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“The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said in statement. “As such, ending the Medicaid participation of Planned Parenthood affiliates in the State of Texas is another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable—the unborn.”

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the actions taken by Texas officials should be a “national scandal” and that the organization would continue fighting back against attempts to restrict women’s reproductive health care.

“It is completely outrageous that Texas officials are using thoroughly discredited, fraudulent videos to cut women off from preventive health care, including cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control,” Laguens said.  

Texas joins efforts in other Republican-led states to defund Planned Parenthood—efforts that have been repeatedly blocked by federal courts.

Just hours before the Texas agency’s announcement, a federal court blocked Louisiana’s attempt to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s Medicaid program. Federal courts have blocked similar attempts to ban Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid in Arkansas and Utah.

A lawsuit has also been filed by the organization to challenge a similar effort in Alabama.

Bowen’s letter reportedly informed Planned Parenthood that the agency believes its affiliates are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.

The letter also claims that the termination of all Planned Parenthood affiliates will not affect access to care “because there are thousands of alternate providers in Texas including federally qualified heath centers, Medicaid-certified rural health clinics, and other health care providers across the state that participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) and Medicaid.”

The action taken by the Texas agency is one of a number taken by Texas officials and lawmakers targeting Planned Parenthood in recent years.

Texas lawmakers this year approved a budget that included a provision that banned Planned Parenthood from participating in a reproductive cancer screening program for low-income Texans. Planned Parenthood had provided care for about 10 percent of the program’s enrollees, but state lawmakers changed the eligibility for the program to include only clinics and doctors authorized to participate in the TWHP.

Lawmakers previously banned Planned Parenthood from participating in TWHP.

Rochelle Tafolla, a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman, told the Texas Tribune that the state’s efforts are “politically motivated,” and that the organization does not participate in fetal tissue donation, but did in 2010, in conjunction with a University of Texas Medical Branch study on miscarriage.

“Tens of thousands of women are already going without care after years of policies aimed at blocking access to care at Planned Parenthood,” Tafolla said. “Now Texas politicians are using a thoroughly discredited, bogus attack against Planned Parenthood as a shameful excuse to attack Texas women’s health yet again.”

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, the state Health and Human Services Commission, and the state Senate Committee on Health and Human Services have launched investigations since the release of the discredited CMP attack videos.

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton in July launched an official investigation into Planned Parenthood following the release of one of the videos that included footage at a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston.

During Paxton’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, the state’s top lawyer told committee members about his office’s ongoing efforts investigating Planned Parenthood.

“My office is aggressively investigating and we will go to any and all lawful lengths to get to the bottom of what has been happening. But more than any misdeeds involving the sale of aborted baby parts is this fundamental truth: The true abomination in all this is the institution of abortion,” Paxton told lawmakers.

Paxton wrote in an October 7 letter to Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick that the investigation has “continued methodically and is ongoing.”

None of the Texas agencies have produced any results from the announced investigations. To date, states that have conducted investigations into Planned Parenthood have discovered no wrongdoing by the organization concerning fetal tissue donation laws.