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Planned Parenthood still in Texas’ Medicaid program

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AUSTIN, Texas (BP) – Planned Parenthood has gained – at least for the time being – another reprieve from Texas’ ban on Medicaid funding for the abortion giant.

State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday (Feb. 3) that prevented the state from removing Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. The decision came on the same day state Medicaid reimbursements for the organization were to expire. Gamble scheduled a Feb. 17 hearing to decide whether to order a temporary injunction in Planned Parenthood’s favor, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The order came in spite of a federal appeals court decision less than three months ago that Texas has the right to find that Planned Parenthood affiliates are unqualified to participate in Medicaid, the federal and state program that helps cover medical costs for low-income Americans. In late November, the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled by 11-5 in favor of Texas, as well as Louisiana, which has a similar ban.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“While this is not the development we would prefer, it should serve as a reminder that our work appealing to consciences about the most vulnerable must continue – especially at the state and local levels,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “The abortion industry devalues human life and, in the process, exploits families and communities. We will not stop until abortion is no longer supported with even a penny of taxpayer funds.”

Gamble’s order is the latest development in a battle of more than five years regarding Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood in Texas and in the ongoing fight in many states over government funding of Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates received $616.8 million in government grants and reimbursements, and its centers performed more than 345,000 abortions, according to its latest annual report for 2018-19. Both totals were records. Most of Planned Parenthood’s government funding comes in Medicaid reimbursements, according to the organization.

Texas terminated its contract with Planned Parenthood after undercover videos released beginning in 2015 appeared to indicate the organization was trading in body parts from aborted babies and had altered abortion procedures to harvest parts. A federal judge blocked enforcement of Texas’ action in 2017, a ruling that kept Planned Parenthood in the Medicaid program.

In its November 2020 opinion, the Fifth Circuit Court said individuals could not challenge Texas’ decision that Planned Parenthood affiliates are unqualified providers under Medicaid rules. Medicaid recipients have a right “to receive services from a provider whom the State has determined is ‘qualified,’ but beneficiaries have no right under the statute to challenge a State’s determination that a provider is unqualified,” Judge Priscilla Owen wrote for the majority.

The ERLC – as well as Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Steve Horn, executive director of Louisiana Baptists – commended the Fifth Circuit decision in November.

Federal appeals courts have divided over the right of states to withhold Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Two circuit courts have ruled in favor of states, while five have ruled against them, according to Texas Right to Life. The U.S. Supreme Court will likely have the opportunity to rule on the issue.

In its emergency lawsuit filed with Gamble, Planned Parenthood contended the state did not abide by the law in its 30-day termination letter to the organization Jan. 4, the American-Statesman reported. The state, however, countered that its 2016 notice of termination adhered to Texas laws and Medicaid rules, according to the newspaper. Planned Parenthood serves about 8,000 low-income Texans as part of the Medicaid program, the American-Statesman reported.

Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization’s “immoral agenda and practices.”