Federal Judge Blocks Texas' Move to Kick Planned Parenthood Out of Medicaid

AUSTIN — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Texas from removing Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid Provider, stopping the ouster until a full trial can be scheduled. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday and wrote that if Planned Parenthood was removed from Medicaid, it would deprive "patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider." The temporary block will stay in place until the full case is decided. "We are thrilled with the court's decision to stop the state's attempt to bar 11,000 Texans from their provider of choice," said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, in a prepared statement. "Attempting to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas is part of an extreme agenda to ban abortion, and politicians are willing to strip away access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other vital health care in the process...We will never stop fighting back against malicious, political attacks on Texans in need and Planned Parenthood health centers."Texas handed Planned Parenthood a final termination notice in December, a year after first publicizing intentions to remove the organization as a Medicaid provider. The notice cited an undercover video shot by anti-abortion activists as the foundation for cutting off all of the provider's Texas affiliates from Medicaid funding. The eight-hour video showed Planned Parenthood employees at a Houston abortion clinic discussing how fetal tissue is collected for donations and used in research projects. The entire video was submitted as evidence in the case but attorneys played a small selection during court proceedings in January. The state claimed Planned Parenthood was breaking the law by offering to alter abortion procedures to obtain specific quantities of tissue for research projects and that the provider was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Melissa Farrell, the employee captured on the tape, testified that she was only discussing modifying how the clinic handles tissue after an abortion, not changing the abortion procedure itself. Planned Parenthood officials have also denied accusations that they sell fetal tissue. Attorneys for the provider said last month it only receives reimbursements for time, storage of tissue and the sterile equipment used in procedures where tissue will be donated to a research institution.Stuart Bowen, inspector general for the Health and Human Services Commission, told Sparks last month that the video showed a willingness on the part of Planned Parenthood to alter procedures but that he did not have evidence of any physician actually changing an abortion. His termination letter to the organization said Planned Parenthood "follows a policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue, potentially for valuable consideration, even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion."  Continue reading...

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