AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - Planned Parenthood sued Texas in a federal class action Monday, to stop the state from cutting its Medicaid funding amid allegations about its handling of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood says in the lawsuit it has provided vital health screening and family planning services to Medicare beneficiaries at its 30 Texas health centers for decades, including birth control counseling, breast exams, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission notified the nonprofit on Oct. 21 it was cutting its Medicaid funding, in a move that will be final in early December after the state sends the clinics "Final Notices of Termination," the complaint states.
Planned Parenthood says Texas based its decision on doctored, secretly recorded videos that were publicized in July by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress.
The videos were edited to falsely show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally procure and donate aborted fetal tissue, the nonprofit says.
In its termination notice, Texas claims the videos show Planned Parenthood "follow[s] a policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion," and "allowed individuals posing as commercial buyers of fetal body parts to handle bloody fetal tissue while wearing only gloves," and that both actions violate federal medical standards.
Texas also claimed in the notice that Planned Parenthood billed Medicare for unnecessary services.
"Each of these allegations is false," Planned Parenthood says in the complaint.
Shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott said in October that the state was canceling Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding, state health officials showed up at the nonprofit's clinics in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Brownsville, with orders demanding that they turn over patients' medical records, The New York Times reported.
Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of 10 Jane Does, Medicaid patients who want to continue receiving health care at its Texas clinics.
It claims that Texas' alleged concerns about Medicaid funding abortions are meritless for one reason: "Texas Medicaid does not pay for abortions except in extremely narrow circumstances."
Medicaid is jointly funded by federal and state government. The number of Texas Medicaid enrollees is expected to surpass 6.2 million by 2020, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
It's clear that Texas Republican leaders want Planned Parenthood out of their state. In 2013 the Texas Legislature passed some of the nation's toughest restrictions on abortion providers. That law led to litigation supported by Planned Parenthood that will be heard next year by the U.S. Supreme Court .
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after the Fifth Circuit upheld most of the Texas law that specifies abortions must be performed in hospital-style surgical centers and can only be performed by doctors with admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles.
In its new lawsuit, Planned Parenthood says its services are essential for Texas Medicaid patients because in 2012 the number of Medicaid doctors dropped to just over 30 percent of all providers.
Planned Parenthood says it tailors its services to low-income women who juggle work and childcare duties by offering extended clinic hours and same-day birth control treatments. It also staffs its clinics with Spanish speakers.
It seeks class certification and a restraining order to stop Texas from terminating its Medicaid provider agreements.
It also seeks declarations that Texas is violating its clinics' 14th Amendment rights to equal protection by "singling them out for unfavorable treatment without adequate justification," and is violating the Medicaid Act by not giving patients "the right to choose any willing, qualified health care provider in the Medicaid program."
It is represented by Thomas Watkins with Husch Blackwell in Austin.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement Monday that "Planned Parenthood cannot be trusted."