A federal appeals court is allowing Texas to kick Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program.
The conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday sided with state officials who removed the chain of women’s health care providers from the program for low-income people. The state had cited a misleading and highly edited video created by anti-abortion advocates in 2015 that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue.
A lower court had blocked the state from removing Planned Parenthood in 2017.
The 5th Circuit judges ruled, however, that legal precedent disqualifies Medicaid beneficiaries from taking issue with how states determine which providers are qualified to be in the program.
"Medicaid beneficiaries have an ‘absolute right’ … to receive services from a provider whom the State has determined is ‘qualified,’ but beneficiaries have no right under the statute to challenge a State’s determination that a provider is unqualified,” the court wrote.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood officials said the state’s move was political. They also noted the order has yet to take effect and that they will continue to serve patients for now.
“These terminations are a blatantly political attack that will jeopardize critical health care access for Texans with low incomes during a global pandemic,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Texas officials said in a statement.
Investigations into the video have been unable to substantiate claims that Planned Parenthood committed any wrongdoing. Republican state officials nonetheless continue to accuse the nonprofit of breaking the law.
In a statement Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who is currently under investigation by the FBI for alleged abuse of office — applauded the ruling.
"Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research,” he said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.”
Ken Lambrecht, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said the ruling would affect the many Texans who rely on the clinics for cancer screenings, birth control services and other medical needs.
“Too many Texans face unacceptable barriers to health care, especially people of color and low-income individuals and families,” he said in a statement. “This ruling only puts health care out of reach for more low-income Texans – during a pandemic, no less. Regardless, Planned Parenthood health centers are open and providing essential health services. We will continue to stand up for our patients and their access to the provider of their choice.”
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism.