The latest round of Texas' ongoing war against Planned Parenthood hit a federal district court Monday, as 10 Medicaid patients and Planned Parenthood affiliates who do not provide abortions sued the state for terminating the affiliates' contract.
Over the summer, an anti-abortion group known as the Center for Medical Progress released a series of secretly-taped videos, including some recorded in Texas, alleging that Planned Parenthood was profiting off the sale of fetal parts because it charged small reimbursement fees for the donation of fetal tissue, which is used for medical research. Planned Parenthood has denied breaking the law but recently stopped charging any fees at all for facilitating the service.
On Oct. 21, the Office of Inspector General of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission told the local Planned Parenthood affiliates that they could no longer serve Medicaid patients because, it was claimed, they had:
- a "policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion”;
- failed to comply with universal precautions for the safe handling of bodily tissue and fluid by “allow[ing] individuals posing as commercial buyers of fetal body parts to handle bloody fetal tissue while wearing only gloves”;
- failed to train staff on such precautions; and
- had billed Medicaid for services that were unnecessary or had not occurred.
"Each of these allegations is false," the complaint added. "In addition, each is wholly irrelevant to [the Planned Parenthood affiliates] and to their qualifications as Medicaid providers."
Planned Parenthood had already spun off its affiliates that provide abortions to comply with an earlier Texas push to defund the group by singling out abortion providers. Texas Medicaid only provides abortion under the narrow federal exceptions of rape, incest, and life endangerment. The Medicaid services in question include physical exams, contraception, breast exams, screening for cervical cancer, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
"The need for publicly supported family planning services is great in Texas, which regularly ranks among the worst states for reproductive health care. In 2010, 54% of pregnancies in Texas were unintended," the complaint notes.
The suit cites a federal Medicaid statute that says that states cannot discriminate against qualified providers in reimbursing for services for Medicaid patients.
The 10 Medicaid patients who joined the suit appeared anonymously "because of the private and personal nature of the medical care that they receive at Provider Plaintiffs, and their desire not to have that information become public in order for them to assert their legal rights," according to the complaint.
Planned Parenthood has filed similar lawsuits in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Utah, and so far it has managed to temporarily block the states' efforts to deny Medicaid patients services at Planned Parenthood affiliates.