Texas cancels Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts

Texas health officials sent a letter to every Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas informing them that the state was canceling the organization's Medicaid contracts immeditaely due to violations discovered after a series of videos regarding the sale of fetal tissue were published.


"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," Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood vowed to fight back, though it did not say whether it would mount a legal challenge.

Abbott is one of several Republican governors who have moved to strip the organization's government funding since an anti-abortion group released the secretly recorded videos last summer about how Planned Parenthood handles the tissue of aborted fetuses used for medical research.

The group, the Center for Medical Progress, said the videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue. The reproductive health organization has said the videos were deceptive, denied any wrongdoing and challenged the funding cuts by Republican-controlled states as politically motivated.


"We will fight back against this outrageous, malicious, political attack in Texas with everything we've got, and we will protect women's access to the health care they need and deserve," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order restoring funding for Planned Parenthood in Louisiana.  Governor Bobby Jindal had ordered Medicaid contracts for the organization canceled, but the judge said that since no abortions by Planned Parenthood are performed in the state, and none of the videos showed the sale of body parts in Louisiana, the state had no right to cancel the contracts:

But late on Sunday, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles signed a temporary restraining order requiring the state to continue providing Medicaid funding to the group's clinics for the next two weeks as the legal fight over the payments continues.

In a 59-page ruling, deGravelles found that Planned Parenthood would likely be able to prove that attempts to end its funding in Louisiana were unrelated to its competence.

"In fact, the uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that (Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast) does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities," the judge said in his ruling.

In contrast to Louisiana, some of the videos showed negotiations for the sale of fetal body parts in Texas, which should negate the argument used by Planned Parenthood elsewhere.

Unfortunately, it's not as clear-cut an issue as it probably should be.  The state is going to have to prove that Planned Parenthood did more than recover "reasonable expenses" for the dissection of fetuses.  And that won't be easy as long as Planned Parenthood refuses to open its books:

Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said the administration would appeal the judge's decision in Louisiana.

"Planned Parenthood is engaging in classic misdirection regarding the millions they have repaid in Medicaid fraud and their own admissions in the baby parts trafficking videos," Reed said in a statement. "Instead of going through the same administrative review as any other Medicaid provider, they are running to the federal courts and asking for special treatment."

Democrats may wish this controversy would go away, but clearly, the battle has moved from Washington to the states.  Utah, Arkansas, and Alabama have also canceled Medicaid contracts for the organizations and, along with Texas, present a direct challenge to Planned Parentood's contention that the videos showed nothing illegal or even unethical.  Until Planned Parenthood opens its books and allows authorities to make their own determination about "reasonable expenses," the organization will continue to be embroiled in a controversy of its own making.