Planned Parenthood, which has been plagued by controversy for months thanks to a deceptive video campaign accusing the organization of selling aborted fetal tissue, is fighting back in court.
The national women’s health organization announced on Monday that it has filed suit against Texas for attempting to kick it out of the state’s Medicaid program.
Last month, Texas officials announced they intended to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics — saying that, in light of the videos, the group can’t be trusted to provide “medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.” Essentially, that means the group would no longer be reimbursed with state or federal Medicaid dollars for the health services it provides to low-income patients in the public health insurance program.
“By canceling Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract politicians are telling women where they can and cannot go for reproductive health care,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards — a native Texan herself — said in a series of tweets on Monday afternoon. “This is illegal, and a violation of federal law.”
Planned Parenthood receives the biggest chunk of its taxpayer dollars from providing basic health services, like birth control consultations and STD testing, to low-income people enrolled in Medicaid. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that attempting to cut off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding is a popular tactic in conservative states.
But the federal government says this isn’t legal, arguing the Medicaid program cannot legally bar qualified health providers like Planned Parenthood from providing care to patients. Back in August, at the height of the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation, federal officials even reminded state lawmakers about this legal precedent. Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pointed to a 2011 memo that explains states may not cut the group’s Medicaid funding simply because it provides abortions.
Texas is ground zero for legal battles over reproductive health. In 2013, the state legislature passed particularly harsh restrictions on abortion providers that have since forced dozens of clinics to close. That omnibus law has made its way up to the Supreme Court — in a highly anticipated case that could have ripple effects across the country.
The Lone Star State has also gone particularly far to target Planned Parenthood specifically. Also in 2013, in an attempt to get around federal regulations prohibiting discrimination against qualified health providers, state lawmakers created an entirely new family planning network — called the Women’s Health Program — specifically to keep out Planned Parenthood.
Now, as clinics have shuttered and an increasing number of women say they’re struggling to get the reproductive care they need, family planning experts point to Texas as the prime example of the consequences of dismantling the family planning safety net.