AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Planned Parenthood is in Federal Court this week fighting Texas’s attempt to zero out its $4 million in annual Medicaid funding.
In a hearing Tuesday, Planned Parenthood officials said the cuts would have a “devastating” effect on nearly 11,000 low-income Texans who rely upon Planned Parenthood clinics for family planning, basic health services, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
“Many of these women do not see another doctor any other time in the year,” Planned Parenthood South Texas CEO Jeffrey Hons testified Tuesday.
Medicaid does not pay for abortions for Texas patients unless their lives are in danger or they are victims of rape or incest.
After a year of investigations, which Planned Parenthood’s lawyers have described in court documents as a “politically motivated witch hunt,” the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a final notice on Dec. 20 terminating the nonprofit’s Medicaid funding.
Unless Planned Parenthood is granted its request for an injunction, the funding will stop on Jan. 21.
Texas says it’s eliminating the funding based on undercover videos that purport to show employees of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Houston clinic negotiating to sell fetal tissue of aborted babies. An anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress produced the videos after getting inside the clinic by posing as health care specialists. The group has acknowledged that the videos it released were heavily edited.
But in its notice of termination, Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen wrote: “The unedited video footage indicates that Planned Parenthood follows a policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue, potentially for valuable consideration, even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion.”
Planned Parenthood says the videos are “deceptively edited and misleading,” in its 38-page request for an injunction, filed on Jan. 4, to which are attached 286 pages of exhibits.
Although the state’s case relies upon the undercover video, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks told attorneys at the beginning of the Tuesday hearing that he is not interested in hearing a lengthy review of the footage. He said the state’s attorneys should focus on showing whether Planned Parenthood had “a willingness” to alter abortion procedures to obtain placenta and fetal tissue samples for research.
Paul Fine, the medical director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, testified that abortion providers are never aware whether a patient is donating tissue for research, and conduct each procedure in the manner safest for the patient.
Fine said the manner and timing of an abortion is never influenced by research purposes, and that small adjustments to abortion procedures are made only based on the patient’s anatomy and the condition of the fetus.
“Like everyone’s noses are different, every woman’s uterus is different,” Fine said.
Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said in a statement supporting Planned Parenthood on Tuesday that Texas “cannot afford a march backward on health coverage.”
“Congress may be about to take away or compromise health coverage for tens of millions of Americans,” Patrick said. “The last thing Texans need in this environment is for Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to cut off an organization that makes a dramatic difference in the health of thousands of the poorest people in our state.”
Abbott’s office told The New York Times in December that Texans “expect that when taxpayer dollars are granted to health care providers, it is only to those who demonstrate that the health and safety of their patients come before a profit motive that puts women at greater risk.”
Planned Parenthood rested its case Tuesday after presenting four witnesses.
Texas was to begin presenting its six witnesses Wednesday.