Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Texas tries to defund Planned Parenthood

The Texas Tribune reports that the State of Texas has served notice to Planned Parenthood that it will defund the organization. The notice gives Planned Parenthood 15 days to appeal the decision to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Planned Parenthood has indicated that their response will be through the courts rather than through state administrative channels. “Planned Parenthood continues to serve Medicaid patients and will seek a preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients,” Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in the Tribune.

The battle over funding in Texas began in October 2015 when Texas officials first gave Planned Parenthood notice of the state’s intent to cut off funding. The original notice gave the organization 30 days to respond or a “final notice of termination” would be issued. The final notice was actually issued more than a year later after there was no formal response from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the Texas defunding effort last year, but the suit lay dormant without the final notice.

The group previously received $3.1 million from Texas in Medicaid funds. About 90 percent of that figure is federal money while the remainder is paid for by the state. 

The notice cited a series of undercover videos that allegedly show that Planned Parenthood officials illegally conspired to sell body parts of aborted babies. Planned Parenthood denies the charges and claims that the videos were edited.   

“Your misconduct is directly related to whether you are qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner,” Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen wrote in the letter to the group. “Your actions violate generally accepted medical standards, as reflected in state and federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination.”

Several states have attempted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and the group has sued to keep the public money coming in. In recent months, Planned Parenthood has won suits against defunding in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, and Utah.

At issue is a portion of federal Medicare law that allows patients free choice of providers. “Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider," a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services representative said in a statement in 2015. "Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk.”

If state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are stymied by federal law, then the problem might be solved by the new Republican Congress. Congressional Republicans tried to defund the group at the federal level, but were blocked by Democrats and the threat of a veto by President Obama.

Next year, President Obama will not be able to block legislation cutting off taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, but Donald Trump’s position on the issue has not been consistent. Throughout much of the campaign, Trump opposed defunding Planned Parenthood, saying the group “does do wonderful things, but not as it relates to abortion.” On several occasions, Trump supported cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding for abortion, but not defunding the group entirely. In September, Trump did issue an unequivocal statement calling for full defunding of the group.

Under the Hyde amendment, originally passed in 1976, federal funds cannot be used for most abortions. The current version of the amendment contains an exception that does allow Medicaid funds to be used in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. Due to this law, federal funding for Planned Parenthood is already limited to providing services that are not related to abortion.

The Texas effort is unlikely to succeed due to its conflict with federal law. An effort by congressional Republicans stands a better chance, even with Donald Trump’s mixed record on Planned Parenthood.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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