Texas defunding of Planned Parenthood takes effect

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a 14-day temporary restraining order blocking Texas from removing Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid health care provider beginning today.

Tip of the cap to Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review Online for reminding us “Texas is no longer funding Planned Parenthood, having successfully removed the abortion company from the state’s list of eligible Medicaid providers. The move comes a few months after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas had the right to determine for itself whether or not to fund a particular provider through its Medicaid program.”

 Succeeding at a fight that went on for years is, to quote Karen Townsend, “A substantial victory for the state. “ She added,  “Houston has the largest Planned Parenthood abortion center in the United States. Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas receive about $3.1 million in taxpayer funding from Medicaid annually. An estimated 8,000 Texans use its facilities every year in the state.”

Since Planned Parenthood receives such enormous amounts of money, it is important to recall how Texas succeeded in removing PPFA from its state Medicaid program.

Back in November, we reported that the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (“en banc”) had vacated  a preliminary injunction  preventing Texas (and Louisiana) from excluding Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the 11-5 decision, “Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program,” he said. 

As Texas Right to Life had explained previously

The question at hand is whether citizens may file a federal lawsuit to demand Planned Parenthood (or any other provider of their choice) be included in their state’s Medicaid program after each state had decided to terminate Planned Parenthood’s contract.

Judge Priscilla Owen, who wrote the opinion for an 11-member majority, addressed that issue at considerable length. The key summary paragraph begins

Medicaid beneficiaries have an “absolute right” … to receive services from a provider whom the State has determined is “qualified,” but beneficiaries have no right under the statute to challenge a State’s determination that a provider is unqualified.

The case has followed a long and complicated path, beginning in 2016, when, after more than a year of delays, Texas defunded Planned Parenthood. 

But in  Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, a three-judge panel of the  5th Circuit court held that Louisiana could not exclude Planned Parenthood. When Louisiana appealed, the court deadlocked 7-7. (The full 5th Circuit Court had only 14 members at the time.) 

The court is now comprised of 16 members. Four of those participating were appointed by President Trump.

The Gee decision was overturned November 23 on a vote of 11-5. The en banc decision concluded that Medicaid patients do not “have a right under Section 1983 of the U.S. public health code to challenge a State’s determination that a health care provider is not ‘qualified’ under their Medicaid program.”