AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President George H.W. Bush has issued a final ruling declaring that the state of Texas may not cut the abortion and contraception giant Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who also ruled last month that the state could not require abortion facilities to bury or cremate babies instead of throwing them out with medical waste trash or grinding their bodies into the sewer system, belittled Texas’ reasoning for defunding Planned Parenthood as being more like from the pages of a fictional novel.
“A secretly recorded video, fake names, a grand jury indictment, congressional investigations—these are the building blocks of a best-selling novel rather than a case concerning the interplay of federal and state authority through the Medicaid program,” Sparks wrote. “Yet, rather than a villain plotting to take over the world, the subject of this case is the State of Texas’s efforts to expel a group of health care providers from a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources.”
“[T]here is reliable information indicating a pattern of illegal billing practices by Planned Parenthood affiliates, including you, across the state,” the letter read. “Our prima facie case of fraud is supported by related cases involving fraudulent practices identified by whistleblowers from inside the Texas Planned Parenthood network.”
It pointed to two federal lawsuits that had been settled for millions after whistleblowers came forward about false Medicaid claims that had been filed.
Without specifically mentioning the Center for Medical Progress, the Commission also referenced undercover video footage showing representatives from a Texas Planned Parenthood facility discussing its willingness to alter abortion procedures to remove deceased children whole.
“The videos indicate that you follow a policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion. These practices violate accepted medical standards, as reflected in federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination,” it said.
As previously reported, a video released in August 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress captured Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discussing with undercover investigators the “diversification of the revenue stream” over dinner, along with a visit to the organization’s pathology lab, where workers sorted through the remains of aborted babies.
“If we alter our process and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, then we can make it part of the budget, that any dissections are this, and splitting the specimens into different shipments is this,” she explained. “I mean, it’s all just a matter of line items.”
Planned Parenthood sued the HHSC in November 2015 in an effort to retain its participation in the Medicaid program, asserting that the termination was illegal, but the Commission did not yet cancel the contract as originally planned.
In December 2016, the state moved forward, issuing a final notice on Dec. 20 that Planned Parenthood would be defunded in 30 days, resulting in the organization again filing for an injunction.
Last month, Judge Sparks issued a temporary injunction against Texas’ intentions. Planned Parenthood had asserted in its request to enjoin the state that some women would lack “few or no adequate alternative providers” if the Medicaid funding is cut. There are 34 Planned Parenthood locations in the state.
Jami Snyder, associate commissioner for Medicaid, told the court during the hearing that the state has plenty of health care providers that women can utilize other than Planned Parenthood.
On Tuesday, Sparks issued a permanent injunction against HHSC, opining that Texas was without justification to cut the abortion giant from the state’s Medicaid program.
“After reviewing the evidence currently in the record, the Court finds the Inspector General, and thus [the Texas Health and Human Services Commission], likely acted to disenroll qualified health care providers from Medicaid without cause,” he wrote. “Such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider.”
Planned Parenthood cheered the ruling, with Planned Parenthood Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht remarking in a press release, “We went to court to protect our patients and to state clearly and simply that Texans, not politicians, should decide where to receive their health care.”
But Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to appeal, expressing dismay that “willingness to violate state and federal law on manipulating abortion procedures and profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, making false statements to law enforcement, and misleading multiple courts were insufficient grounds for Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s Medicaid program.”
“Today’s decision is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency,” Paxton said. “The raw, unedited footage from undercover videos exposed a brazen willingness by Planned Parenthood officials to traffic in fetal body parts, as well as manipulate the timing and method of an abortion.”
(View unedited footage below.)
“Even the remains of the most vicious criminals are treated with respect. But the children who never had a chance at life become so-called medical waste or, alternatively, a commodity to be bartered for,” he continued. “No taxpayer in Texas should have to subsidize this repugnant and illegal conduct. We should never lose sight of the fact that, as long as abortion is legal in the United States, the potential for these types of horrors will continue.”
The organization had heretofore received $3.1 million in Medicaid reimbursement annually.