Denver Newsroom, Jan 13, 2021 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Texas will no longer provide Medicaid funds to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, with the last funds ending in February.
“We are grateful that Texas has finally taken the steps to fully remove abortion providers from all state Medicaid funding,” Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, told CNA Jan. 12. “The legislature has acted responsibly to remove funding from the state budget and the recent actions of (the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) to complete the defunding are welcomed by the Catholic Bishops in Texas.”
“Compared to their previous allocations of state dollars, this final reduction of funding is relatively small,” she said. “It will reduce their ability to use the guise of Medicaid funded contraceptive visits to encourage abortion.”
A majority opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, issued Nov. 23, ruled that abortion providers and their customers could not challenge Texas’ decision to withhold Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. The state’s determination of “qualified” Medicaid providers is between the state and the provider, the court ruled.
While Medicaid is a federally funded program, its spending can be governed by the states.
Before Planned Parenthood was dropped from funding, the organization served about 40 percent of the women in the program, providing birth control, cancer screenings, and other services. The funds did not go to abortions.
Medicaid clients who currently receive services from providers who also perform abortions need to transition to new providers by Feb. 3.
As the largest abortion provider in the U.S., any funding of Planned Parenthood has drawn critical attention from foes of abortion. But the push for the new Texas rules began in 2015 after undercover investigative videos from David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress alleged that Planned Parenthood officials and others were unlawfully profiting from the sale of aborted fetal tissue.
In the videos, a research director at the Houston-based Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast appeared to suggest that the Planned Parenthood affiliate could alter abortion procedures to produce higher-quality tissue specimens for harvesters, having doctors perform abortions “in a way that they get the best specimens.”
Later that year, the Texas Office of the Inspector General said that Planned Parenthood was “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner.” The state barred Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding, prompting unsuccessful legal challenges.
In response to the end of Medicaid funds, Planned Parenthood officials have said it is difficult for their clients to find options.
“Finding a new provider with a limited amount of time is difficult in most scenarios, but even more so in a state like Texas which is so big and has so many rural areas,” Dr. Bhavik Kumar, the medical director for primary and trans care at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, told KUT Radio. “And sometimes Planned Parenthood may be the only place where they can access health care.”
Kumar said there are not enough Medicaid providers to serve the 8,000 Medicaid recipients who are Planned Parenthood clients, saying this will affect people who are “already severely marginalized.”
Allmon, however, told CNA there are alternatives.
“There are hundreds of providers throughout the state of Texas willing to serve poor women with authentic healthcare services that are not also peddling abortion,” she said. “The Texas Pregnancy Care Network has a list of such providers throughout the state and if these providers do not accept Medicaid, they can make referrals to life-affirming Medicaid providers who can offer genuine healthcare to women in need.”
In January 2020, a Texas women’s health program that bars funding for health care providers that perform abortions was approved for federal funding by the Trump administration, making it the first program to receive federal Medicaid funding while excluding abortion providers.
The Healthy Texas Women program was launched in 2007 under the name the Women’s Health Program. It served about 173,000 low-income women in 2018. The waiver, approved through December 2024, aimed to fund services for over 200,000 clients a year, the governor’s office said before the coronavirus pandemic. Federal funds were set to total about $350 million over five years, while the state was to contribute about $100 million over that time.
The program could face problems under the Biden administration. The Obama administration had refused to renew federal funding for the program because Texas would not fund abortion providers or affiliates. The funds did not go to abortions.
The videos from the Center for Medical Progress resulted in some political and legal action as well as a multi-million dollar public relations campaign from Planned Parenthood and its supporters.
Two bioscience companies in California reached an agreement with the Orange County district attorney’s office to admit fault, cease California operations, and meet the terms of a legal settlement close to $7.8 million in value for violating state and federal laws against the purchase or sale of fetal tissue.
The journalists involved in recording the videos have also faced repercussions. In November 2019, a federal court found that the Center for Medical Progress caused “substantial harm” to Planned Parenthood by secretly recording meetings with abortion doctors and staff to expose their business practices. A jury ordered the organization to pay Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages. The fine was tripled under federal racketeering laws. Combined with compensatory damages, the group must make pay $2 million.
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