Texas Planned Parenthood asks judge to block Medicaid funding cut

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By Jon Herskovitz | AUSTIN, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas The leaders of Texas Planned
Parenthood asked a federal judge on Tuesday to block the state’s
bid to halt Medicaid funding for the healthcare group, which has
long been targeted by Republicans for providing abortions.

Planned Parenthood has said the threatened funding cut, by
terminating Planned Parenthood’s enrollment in the state-funded
healthcare system for the poor, could affect nearly 11,000
patients across Texas.

It is seeking an injunction from Judge Sam Sparks in federal
court in Austin to stop the cutoff, the latest twist in a
protracted legal and political fight.

Texas and several other Republican-controlled states have
pushed to cut the organization’s funding since an anti-abortion
group released videos that it said showed Planned Parenthood
officials negotiating prices for fetal tissue collected from
abortions.

The defunding efforts could gain traction now that
Republicans, who already control the U.S. House and Senate, are
expanding their powers with this week’s inauguration of
President-elect Donald Trump.

Ken Lambrecht, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of
Greater Texas and a plaintiff in the suit, testified his group
does not participate in fetal tissue donation for medical
research.

Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing nationally, saying
the videos were heavily edited and misleading.

The Medicaid cut was “unconscionable,” Lambrecht told
Sparks, adding that it would make it more difficult for some of
the state’s poorest people to access services his affiliate
provides, such as cancer screenings, birth control and HIV
testing.

Texas has said that other medical facilities could provide
similar services as Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood affiliates across Texas received a total
of $4.2 million in Medicaid funding during the 2015 fiscal year,
the state’s Health and Human Services Commission said.

None of that money went to abortions, plaintiffs in the suit
against Texas and the Medicaid defunding plan have said.

“The state’s main objection is the information in the videos,” Sparks said at the start of the hearing. He later
added, however, that he does not see the videos as a central to
the hearing, which opened Tuesday and is scheduled to run
through Thursday

Texas investigated Planned Parenthood over the videos and a
grand jury last January cleared it of any wrongdoing. The grand
jury indicted two people who made the videos for document fraud.

The state took no further criminal action against Planned
Parenthood after that but has repeated its accusations that the
abortion provider may have violated state law.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in
federal funds across the United States, largely in
reimbursements through Medicaid.



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