Federal Judge (Temporarily) Blocks Texas From Denying Planned Parenthood Patients Medicaid

Medicaid removal will not take effect until at least Feb. 21

Protesters supporting Planned Parenthood in 2016
Protesters supporting Planned Parenthood in 2016 (photo by Jana Birchum)

Following a three-day hearing that concluded Thursday afternoon, U.S. Judge Sam Sparks granted a temporary injunction blocking Texas officials from removing Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program until at least Feb. 21.

The exclusion was slated to take effect this Saturday, Jan. 21 and impact more than 11,000 of the state’s poorest women, including at least 1,000 Austin residents.

The hearings wrapped up after a few final witnesses took the stand. State witness, Jami Snyder, Texas’ chief deputy director for Medicaid, expressed confidence in the ability of thousands of women on Medicaid to find another provider if they could no longer visit Planned Parenthood, pointing to a provider search function the state healthcare website. However – as the not too distant past reminds us – when Planned Parenthood patients who were excluded from the Women’s Health Program (due to political reasons in 2013) attempted to search for another provider on a state health online database they received inaccurate info. Snyder could not definitively say that every county has a sufficient number of family planning providers to assist the displaced women. And stunningly, the Texas health official was “not aware” of the alarming rise in maternal mortality rates, news that recently made international headlines.

Amanda Stevenson, a reproductive health researcher who has contributed to the UT-based Texas Policy Evaluation Project, refuted Snyder’s optimism based on results of a New England Journal of Medicine article she co-authored that tracked results of the 2013 Women’s Health Program removal. The study showed a 27% increase in Medicaid-paid births in areas where Planned Parenthood was no longer a provider. Stevenson asserted that Texas would likely experience an “adverse” impact, including a rise in unintended pregnancy and potentially abortion, if Medicaid access was blocked at Planned Parenthood. State attorneys attempted to discredit Stevenson by showing the court Tweets she wrote that supported abortion rights. “The horse died an hour ago,” Sparks interrupted, halting the line of critical questioning.

UT Law Professor John Robertson, a bioethics expert, refuted claims that the anti-choice video exhibited unethical practices, the bulk of what state witnesses strove to show yesterday. Both sides concluded by delivering final arguments; Sparks showed less patience and asked more skeptical questions to state attorneys, foreshadowing his temporary ruling. “Can you write a check for $3.1 million?,” he pointedly asked state attorneys, referring to the funds PP would lose if denied Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood attorneys called the state’s removal the “latest in a long string” of “politically motivated” attacks against the reproductive health provider. They asserted it was clear Planned Parenthood employees, by state witnesses’ own admission, had not engaged in any actual wrongdoing. The state, said attorneys, were merely “grasping at straws” to show any plausible basis for an argument.

Apparently, Sparks – at least in the meantime – seemed to agree.

For coverage of day one of the hearing, read here. And for day two, read here.

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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abortion rights, U.S. Judge Sam Sparks, Amanda Stevenson, John Robertson, Reproductive Rights

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