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Planned Parenthood sues Texas over threat to cut Medicaid funding

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Planned Parenthood, other women’s health providers and a group of women in need of reproductive healthcare sued Texas on Monday, seeking to halt its threatened cut in Medicaid funding, a move they said was more about politics than healthcare.

The suit filed in federal court in Austin comes as Texas and several other Republican-controlled states try to cut funding for Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion group released videos it said showed Planned Parenthood officials negotiating prices for fetal tissues from abortions it performs.

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“By cancelling Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract, these politicians are telling women where they can and cannot go for reproductive healthcare. And let’s be clear: That is illegal and it’s a violation of federal law,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told a teleconference with reporters.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office was not immediately available for comment.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in October, when notice of the pending cuts was given: “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.”

Planned Parenthood has said the videos were heavily edited and that it does not profit from fetal tissue donation. It has challenged similar defunding efforts in other states, calling them politically motivated.

The lawsuit said Texas cited reasons for the planned cut such as failing to properly handle fetal tissue and billing Medicaid for services that were unnecessary or had not occurred.

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“Each of these allegations is false,” the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs added the decision could take effect as early as Dec. 8, and affect 13,500 Texas women who will find their family planning services and preventive screenings halted.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in federal funds, largely in reimbursements through Medicaid, which provides health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.

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Richards said one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was a rape victim who sought care from Planned Parenthood after feeling uncomfortable with other providers, including a doctor who examined her in an emergency room after the assault.

“Officials who oppose women’s access to reproductive healthcare may think they can bully us out of providing care for our patients, but we won’t back down and we won’t shut our doors.”

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The threatened cut is yet another blow to Planned Parenthood in the state.

In 2011, the Texas state legislature cut Planned Parenthood out of one family-planning program and revamped the way another program hands out funds, placing private clinics like Planned Parenthood at the bottom of the list.

According to figures provided by Texas health officials, the state’s retooled family-planning programs reached 317,393 women in the 2014 fiscal year, nearly as many as the 320,044 the state served in fiscal 2010, before it cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

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Independent health experts dispute the claim, saying Texas still has a long way to go before it can provide the level of service it did when Planned Parenthood was an integral part of its family-planning efforts.

Federal judges have blocked recent attempts by neighboring Arkansas and Louisiana to halt Medicaid funds.

(The case is 1:15-cv-01058 Filed 11/23/15, US District Court, Western District of Texas.)

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman)

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GOP lawmaker scrambles for excuses after being cornered with McConnell’s promise to rig Trump impeachment

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On CNN Saturday, anchor Martin Savidge confronted Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), one of Trump's biggest defenders on cable television, about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's claim that he was "coordinating" the impeachment strategy with the White House.

"Where is the impartiality there?" asked Savidge. "And it has to be a concern because, as you point out, you are an attorney and you would be worried if a member of the jury had already stated how they were going to consider."

"Yeah, we heard those comments yesterday, as everyone did," said Johnson. "You know, I've actually talked about this with some of my Democrat [sic] colleagues, those who are very much in favor of impeachment. I said isn't it a fair description of what he said? The way I heard that, Mitch McConnell is talking about the scheduling of the trial, what length of trial or what would be involved with that, with the White House, which is not unprecedented. That's what happened in the Clinton proceedings as well, they coordinated with the White House on scheduling. I don't think he's talking about the merits of the case. I think he's talking about how long will be allowed for this to go forward so I don't think there's anything inappropriate about that."

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Jared Kushner’s ties to Saudis could be fair game if Trump keeps going after Hunter Biden: Dem lawmaker

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On MSNBC's "AM Joy," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) laid out the case for impeaching President Donald Trump — and warned of the consequences for Trump's own family at the hands of future presidents if he is allowed to get away with it.

"He abused his power by trying to trade government resources for a political favor, to knock out a political rival in Joe Biden, the guy that he thought would emerge as nominee for 2020," said Castro. "We can't set a precedent where Congress says it's okay for a president to do that, because if we do that then a few things will happen. Number one, it opens the door for Donald Trump to do it again or a future president to do it again. To ask a country to interfere in our elections and knock out a political rival by digging up dirt."

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Melania Trump scorched by columnist for standing by president’s Thunberg bullying: ‘Indefensible’

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In a piece for the Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty called out first lady Melania Trump for her statement defending her husband's bullying of 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg in a fit of jealousy after she was selected Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Responding to a statement from the White House that stated, “BeBest is the First Lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It is no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy,” Tumulty wasn't having it.

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