Texas serves subpoenas at Planned Parenthood clinics

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2015 12:39 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Health investigators served subpoenas seeking hundreds of pages of patient and staff records at Planned Parenthood clinics across Texas on Thursday, as officials move to halt Medicaid funding to the organization that has been repeatedly targeted by the state's top conservatives.

Planned Parenthood said investigators visited clinics in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, and a health center that does not provide abortions in Brownsville, on the Mexico border. They asked for patient health records and billing documents dating back to 2010, as well as personnel files that included the home addresses of staff members, Planned Parenthood said.

The officials showed up "looking for an excuse to take health care away from thousands of women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive care — but what they will see is professional, compassionate and quality health care," Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Texas Votes political action committee, said in a statement.

At a subsequent news conference in Austin, Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, called the request for documents "unprecedented and unnecessary."

"We believe this is a fishing expedition," Lambrecht said. "We believe that this is exactly what it is, another political attack targeted at Planned Parenthood."

A spokesman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission declined comment. The agency's investigative arm said it could not "provide comment on any oversight or investigative activities."

The visits came three days after Texas health officials sent a lengthy letter to Planned Parenthood clinics statewide saying they were being kicked out of the joint state-federal Medicaid program. That will likely set off a legal fight similar to one in neighboring Louisiana, where Planned Parenthood — which doesn't offer abortions in Louisiana — filed a lawsuit to stop the same severing of Medicaid funding there.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state health officials to investigate after anti-abortion activists released undercover videos they allege show Planned Parenthood officials talking about the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit. One of the videos was filmed at a Planned Parenthood in Houston. An investigation also is ongoing in Congress.

Planned Parenthood has denied the claims, saying the videos were deceptively edited. It also notes six states that investigated in the wake of the videos found nothing.

Texas alleged that Planned Parenthood had misused Medicaid funding by scheduling abortions so as to best procure fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood provides abortion at some clinics, but also medical services that include cancer screenings and health exams.

Its Texas facilities saw nearly 13,000 Medicaid patients in 2013 alone, Lambrecht said. This year, Planned Parenthood clinics statewide have received more than $3 million in Medicaid funding, but 90 percent of that was federal.

The group's Texas affiliates have 30 days to respond to efforts to remove it from the Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood has vowed to fight to keep its operations going — but so far has yet to sue in an attempt to do so.

In Louisiana, GOP presidential candidate Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered his state to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid in the wake of the undercover videos. Planned Parenthood sued, arguing that Louisiana can't end funding for non-abortion services, and a judge ordered the state on Monday to provide Medicaid funding for at least two more weeks.