As Louisiana Is Forced to Fund Planned Parenthood, Texas Decides to Stop

By
Erica Canaut
Photo: Eric Gay/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

A federal judge has put the kibosh on Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood in the state, saying it would cause harmful disruptions in health care for 5,000 people.

Jindal, who is also at the bottom of the Republican presidential polls, moved to end the organization’s Medicaid contracts this summer, when several secretly recorded videos involving Planned Parenthood’s participation in fetal-tissue research were released.

Planned Parenthood sued, challenging the state’s decision. On Monday, district judge John deGravelles instated a 14-day restraining order requiring the state to continue funding Planned Parenthood, as the lawsuit snakes through the legal system. DeGravelles wrote that more than 5,000 men and women in the state would suffer irreparably without the bulk of the services it offers, despite its contentious political image.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer abortions in Louisiana, so defunding it would only keep low-income patients in cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge from accessing cancer screenings and other preventative health-care measures offered by the organization, Planned Parenthood said. The national organization currently receives approximately $450 million a year in federal funding, with $390 million as reimbursement from Medicaid.

Many states, including Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, have investigated the organization after the contentious fetal-tissue videos went viral. None found any sign of wrongdoing. Governors in Washington, New York, and Minnesota, among others, won’t even call for probes due to a lack of evidence.

Despite these findings, the congressional House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing last month where they interrogated Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards about the organization’s finances, attacking her for her salary and travel expenses in an effort to prove the nonprofit doesn’t need federal dollars.

Planned Parenthood decided it would no longer accept reimbursements for providing fetal tissue to researchers last week. Only two health centers nationwide had been donating fetal tissue before the controversy, and only one had been reimbursed. 

Louisiana is one of several states, including Alabama, Utah, and Arkansas, where attempts to cut ties with Planned Parenthood have exploded into massive legal battles. Now Texas is jumping on the fund-cutting bandwagon.

On Monday, Planned Parenthood clinics across the Lone Star State received letters telling them their Medicaid funding was in the process of being terminated because they “committed and condoned numerous acts of misconduct captured on video.” The letter, sent by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General, explained that the videos exemplified Medicaid program violations.

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,” said Texas governor Greg Abbott in a statement. The harvesting of fetal tissue for research remains legal in the U.S.

It’s safe to assume the state just fired the first shot in yet another battle over state-funded reproductive-health services. “In every state where this fraudulent smear campaign has been invoked, Planned Parenthood has fought for our patients to continue getting the high-quality, compassionate health care we provide, and in every state we’ve won,” executive vice-president of Planned Parenthood Dawn Laguens said in a statement Monday. “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.”

Texas has long been a battleground over reproductive rights. In 2013, former governor Rick Perry signed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks and requiring strict standards for abortion clinics, effectively shutting down half of the state’s abortion clinics. Reports show that, as a result, women are waiting longer — and often into the second trimester of pregnancy — to obtain an abortion.

This post has been updated throughout.