The Texas government’s blitz on women’s health hit a snag on Monday, when Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit against state officials for kicking the organization out of the Texas Medicaid program without just cause. Along with 10 patient co-plaintiffs, Planned Parenthood is suing on the grounds that Texas has violated both federal law and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Last month, the Texas Office of the Inspector General raided Planned Parenthood facilities in three cities, demanding patient records and employee addresses in what was said to be an investigation of whether the organization made unlawful use of Medicaid funds. The state’s evidence of Planned Parenthood’s alleged breach of Medicaid standards came from undercover videos whose false claims about the nature of fetal tissue donation have long been debunked.
Planned Parenthood’s case against Texas hinges on the allegation that the state is breaking its legal obligation to its more than 13,500 Medicaid enrollees, who must be allowed to seek medical care from whichever qualified providers they choose. Medicaid dollars can’t be used for abortions, but they can be used for the other services Planned Parenthood provides, like STI screenings and contraception. The suit also claims that Texas has antagonized Planned Parenthood with legal attacks without sufficient reason, in violation of the 14th Amendment.
“We have seen the very real and very devastating consequences for Texas women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood—with tens of thousands going without access to birth control, HIV tests, and cancer screenings,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in a statement. The release cites statistics from a January report that showed a 30,000-patient drop from the Texas Women’s Health Program for low-income women between 2011, when the state took over the program, and 2013. New barriers to reproductive health care have caused many Planned Parenthood clinics to shutter, leading to crises of access in primarily rural and low-income areas.
Planned Parenthood is also suing Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah for their similar attempts to bar the organization from state Medicaid programs. “Taken together, these measures threaten to devastate access to critical health care and education across vast regions of the country—all in the name of politics,” Richards said in Monday’s statement.
Texas has already weathered some troubling effects of its radical anti-choice legislation. More than half of the state’s abortion providers have shuttered in recent years, leading to longer wait times for abortion appointments, which will mean more second-trimester abortions and unsafe home abortions. As I wrote last week, Texas is becoming a dystopian premonition of what our country’s future could look like if the Supreme Court takes some of the bite out of Roe v. Wade this session. We can rest a little easier knowing that Planned Parenthood will throw its legal weight behind the opposition.