Planned Parenthood sues Texas over blocked Medicaid dollars

AP News
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Posted: Nov 23, 2015 5:48 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Planned Parenthood sued again Monday over efforts by Republican governors to block Medicaid funding to the nation's largest abortion provider, this time against Texas, where the organization says health care access to 13,500 women is on the line.

Federal courts have so far halted similar attempts in Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama while lawsuits play out. Texas plans to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state's Medicaid program by Dec. 8.

The lawsuit filed in Austin begins another legal showdown between Texas and abortion providers. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments over a 2013 law that abortion rights groups say would leave about 10 abortion clinics open statewide. Planned Parenthood also sued Texas in 2012 over being booted from the state women's health program but eventually lost that case.

Planned Parenthood is now trying to hang onto Medicaid reimbursements at its Texas clinics, including those that don't perform abortions. State officials moved in October to block the dollars after accusing Planned Parenthood of scheduling abortions in a way that would best procure fetal tissue for medical research.

The state levied the accusation after anti-abortion activists released undercover videos they say show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal for-profit sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied both claims.

"We're not backing down, and we won't shut our doors," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said.

Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, declined comment, saying the state had not yet been served the lawsuit.

Ten anonymous Planned Parenthood patients, who say they would lose access to their health provider of choice, also joined the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood says it provides cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and other physical exams at 17 centers that would be impacted by the loss of Medicaid dollars.

After Texas announced plans to block Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, state health investigators served subpoenas requesting hundreds of pages of patient and staff records at clinics statewide.

Other states with Republican governors have tried to financially weaken Planned Parenthood in other ways. The most recent is Oklahoma, where Gov. Mary Fallin last week urged the state's Medicaid provider to cancel its contracts with two Planned Parenthood affiliates, citing what she called a "high rate of billing errors."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also moved to withhold federal grant dollars for reproductive health education and sexually transmitted disease testing. Those actions have also been blocked by a federal judge.

The rush by Republicans to cut off funding came after release of the videos, starting in mid-July, by anti-abortion activists who posed as representatives of a biomedical firm. They sought to negotiate the purchase of fetal organs from some Planned Parenthood personnel. Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs.

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