By Kenneth Artz
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a brief in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, asking the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to deny lawsuits by individual Medicaid recipients intended to force taxpayer funding for abortions.
This follows Planned Parenthood’s removal from the state’s Medicaid Program by the inspector general of Texas Health and Human Services in 2016 for failing to meet the definition of a “qualified” provider under the state’s Medicaid Act.
The inspector general based his decision on a determination Planned Parenthood acted unethically and violated state and federal laws when an undercover video showed agents of the organization discussing modifying abortion procedures to preserve body parts of aborted fetuses for researchers to get more intact fetal cadavers.
Planned Parenthood sued the state in federal court to restore funding, and in 2017, a U.S. District Judge blocked Texas from terminating the abortion provider’s Medicaid funding, calling the action “arbitrary and capricious.” In January 2019, the Fifth Circuit rejected the injunction and sent the case back to the lower court for rehearing.
In his brief for the Fifth Circuit Court in March, Paxton said Planned Parenthood had a right to challenge the termination through state administrative proceedings, but it chose not to do so and instead enlisted a handful of patients as plaintiffs to file a federal lawsuit. The Medicaid Act does not permit individuals to challenge a state agency’s determination that a service provider is not qualified under the Act, the brief argues.
“We’re confident that our reading of the law is correct and that the full 5th Circuit will rule that individual plaintiffs should be dismissed from this lawsuit,” Paxton stated in a news release.“Taxpayer resources should be used to provide health care to the most vulnerable among us, not to defend the government against lawsuits from Medicaid recipients who would prefer to do business with Planned Parenthood.”
Stopping the Money-Go-Round
Dr. Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, says Planned Parenthood is in the crosshairs of the state when it comes to funding for abortions.
“Planned Parenthood reportedly received about $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars between 2013-15, most of it from the Medicaid program,” said Matthews. “While federal law prohibits that money from being used to provide abortion services, money is fungible. It can be used to pay many of the fixed expenses, freeing up other monies to provide abortion services.”
“Attorney General Paxton's effort to defund Planned Parenthood simply recognizes that financial relationship,” Matthews said.
“And while Planned Parenthood used to play down its role in providing abortions, that era has ended under the new head, Dr. Leana Wen, who has been very assertive about its abortion-providing role,” Matthews said.