Planned Parenthood Fights Texas in Court to Save Medicaid

Providers say Medicaid exclusion would be "devastating"

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Planned Parenthood affiliates are in court this week to halt state officials’ plans to boot the provider from Medicaid, as promised last month.

The state has largely based its termination of healthcare for thousands of low-income women on a set of widely discredited undercover videos released by anti-choice group the Center for Medical Progress, which failed to show PP profits from aborted fetal tissue.

The three-day hearing in U.S. Judge Sam Sparks’ federal courtroom began Tuesday (Jan. 17) with Planned Parenthood leaders of Texas stressing that the Medicaid exclusion would have a “devastating” and “damaging” impact on patients and prevent its core mission of helping the “poorest of the poor” women and men of the state get access to birth control, HIV and cancer screenings, STD tests, and other basic preventative care. The rule would strip them of the $3.1 million needed to aid 11,000 women, including 4,000 in Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Waco, Tyler and surrounding areas. As a result, clinics would reduce hours, staff, and some may possibly shut down.

“We serve among the most vulnerable,” said Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, which includes Austin. “And my fear is that they won’t know where to turn, I’ve already heard concern from patients because there’s not much elsewhere to go … [Removing Medicaid] is unconscionable.”

On Tuesday, state attorneys attempted to show CMP video clips in court, but didn’t get far after Sparks agreed to their irrelevance, even calling the effort “baloney.” Melissa Farrell, research director at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the only affiliate featured on the video, called the footage “misleading,” and debunked state claims that the provider had ever engaged in profit from fetal tissue or that any abortion procedures had been influenced by fetal tissue donation. “If we were attempting to profit, our model would be very different,” said Farrell.

By questioning their grants and financial statements, state attorneys sought to suggest Planned Parenthood could financially handle a loss of Medicaid funds, to which an impatient Sparks interjected, “I think you’re wasting my time.”

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday, Jan. 19. An exclusion is set to take effect on Saturday, but Sparks signaled he will likely rule on whether or not to issue a temporary injunction Friday. Check back here for additional coverage.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

abortion rights, Ken Lambrecht, Sam Sparks, Melissa Farrell, reproductive rights

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