Texas health officials announced Monday that they were taking steps to end the state’s Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood after the release this year of undercover videos targeting the nonprofit’s fetal tissue donation program.
In letters to all Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state, the state health department’s inspector general said the videos persuaded them that the organization was “no longer capable of providing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner.”
The move would mean that the affiliates would no longer be reimbursed for serving low-income people who are eligible for Medicaid. But similar efforts in other states have been blocked by the federal courts because states are not permitted to pick and choose which organizations may receive reimbursement through the Medicaid program.
Planned Parenthood officials indicated Monday that they plan to take legal action to challenge the inspector general’s decision.
“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,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 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.”
Also Monday, a federal court temporarily blocked a similar effort in Louisiana to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood.
In the letter, Texas health officials laid out their case for terminating the contracts, citing undercover videos filmed by the antiabortion group the Center for Medical Progress. The videos, filmed over the course of 30 months, purport to show that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from a program that allows women to donate tissue leftover from abortions for research.
Planned Parenthood officials have said they did nothing wrong, and recently stopped accepting compensation for providing tissue for research, which they said only covered overhead costs. The organization has condemned the videos as fraudulently obtained and heavily edited.
Texas officials in their letter allege that the videos prove a number of violations, including that one Texas affiliate was willing to alter its abortion procedures to obtain better tissue samples, and that it allowed the undercover actors to improperly handle the tissue. The officials also alleged that Planned Parenthood improperly billed Medicaid.
They said Planned Parenthood had 30 days to submit evidence contradicting their findings.
Planned Parenthood officials countered that the effort was part of a pattern by Texas officials to curb women’s access to gender-specific health-care, including abortions. The number of abortion clinics in the state has been sharply reduced in the wake of a 2013 law restricting abortion clinics that may be reviewed by the Supreme Court this term.