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Judge blocks Texas from kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid

By Stephen Feller
Judge blocks Texas from kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid
Federal Judge Sam Sparks ruled Tuesday the state could not stop Planned Parenthood from billing Medicaid for care they provide, preventing thousands of people from having their healthcare disrupted by issuing a temporary injunction against the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Tuesday prevented officials in Texas from removing Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program.

Judge Sam Sparks ruled Tuesday the state could not prevent Planned Parenthood from billing Medicaid for care they provide, preventing thousands of people from having their healthcare disrupted by issuing a temporary injunction against the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

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Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen issued a letter in December notifying Planned Parenthood it had removed Medicaid funding based on several videos purporting to show officials from the organization negotiating the sale of fetal tissue, which is against federal law.

Planned Parenthood officials claimed the videos, released in 2015, were heavily edited and that they had not been discussing selling fetal tissue to two anti-abortion activists.

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The state used the allegation that Planned Parenthood had broken the law as justification for removing its federal funding, but Sparks said evidence presented in the case sounded more like "the building blocks of a best-selling novel" than an acceptable explanation for disrupting people's health care.

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"After reviewing the evidence currently in the record, the Court finds the Inspector General, and thus [the Texas Health and Human Services Commission], likely acted to disenroll qualified health care providers from Medicaid without cause," Sparks wrote in the ruling. "Such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider."

Sparks argued in his ruling that Bowen moved to remove the funding without providing any evidence the organization had broken federal law, noting Texas officials were citing a "policy of" and "willingness" to violate medical and ethical standards without proof either action was ever taken.

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The state was unbowed by the ruling, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton saying he would appeal Sparks' ruling and sticking to the video as proof Planned Parenthood broke the law and is ineligible for funding.

"Today's decision is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency," Paxton said in a statement. "The raw, unedited footage from undercover videos exposed a brazen willingness by Planned Parenthood officials to traffic in fetal body parts, as well as manipulate the timing and method of an abortion."

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