Texas Defunds Planned Parenthood the Same Day a Court Orders Louisiana to Refund It

by | October 20, 2015

By Maria L. La Ganga

A video campaign aimed at Planned Parenthood continued to ripple through women's health services Monday, as Texas officials announced that the Lone Star State would eliminate funding for the organization on the same day a federal court halted efforts in Louisiana to do the very same thing.

The grisly videos released earlier this year by the Center for Medical Progress sought to paint Planned Parenthood as illegally selling fetal tissue for medical research -- allegations the reproductive health provider vehemently denied.

The videos showed anti-abortion activists posing as representatives of a biomedical firm and trying to negotiate the purchase of fetal organs from some Planned Parenthood personnel.

The recordings set off protests among anti-abortion Republicans in the House of Representatives, who renewed efforts to cut the group's federal funding. Most of that funding involves aid to Medicaid patients receiving a range of health services.

Six states that launched their own investigations following the CMP campaign -- including Massachusetts, Indiana and Pennsylvania -- cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Seven states declined to investigate, and 11 others are still looking into the organization's practices.

Four congressional committees have been investigating Planned Parenthood. The House also voted to form a special committee to examine the organization. Last month, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards was grilled for nearly five hours during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing.

In April, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced that his state would terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood as a result of the video campaign, saying that the organization "does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life. It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state."

The Louisiana Republican, a longtime abortion foe, is running for president.

Planned Parenthood sued to stop Louisiana, and on Monday, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order to keep Louisiana's funding in place for 14 days.

In his order, Judge John W. DeGravelles wrote that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast "serves 5,200 poor and needy women, and PPGC has repeatedly been deemed a 'competent' provider" by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The organization "honors the public interest in affording these women access to their provider of choice," DeGravelles continued. Quoting an earlier decision, he said that a "vulnerable population" like the people served in Louisiana "should only be uprooted if practically necessary and legally warranted."

Also on Monday, the Office of Inspector General at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that the state would end Medicaid participation for Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.

"Texas has stepped forward and shown its unyielding commitment to both protecting life and providing women's health service," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a written statement. "The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end."

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the Texas action "a national scandal."

"It is completely outrageous that Texas officials are using thoroughly discredited, fraudulent videos to cut women off from preventive health care, including cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control," Laguens said in a statement. "We will fight back against this outrageous, malicious, political attack in Texas with everything we've got, and we will protect women's access to the health care they need and deserve."

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times