The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a motion by the Texas Office of the Attorney General to unseal video evidence from the Center for Medical Progress in the state’s case to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid contracts. The video footage showing Planned Parenthood executives allegedly engaged in the trafficking of baby body parts obtained in elective abortions in a Houston abortion clinic is key evidence in the state’s case, yet a lower court blocked use of the video. Texas finalized the decision to cut all Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in December 2016 based on accusations of Medicaid fraud and the release of the undercover videos.
In a press release, the Texas Office of the Attorney General said “after reviewing all of the video, the inspector general of Texas Health and Human Services concluded that Planned Parenthood is ‘not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.’” The attorney general’s office argued that the full, unedited video is necessary evidence in determining the outcome of the case. Marc Rylander, director of communications for the attorney general’s office, said, “Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the entirety of the video unsealed because it magnifies the horrific nature of abortion and the organization’s violation of accepted medical and ethical standards.” The video shows Planned Parenthood staff discussing altering abortion procedures, a serious crime that underscores the abortion industry’s disregard for the sanctity of human Life and disregard for the safety of women seeking elective abortions in Texas.
According to the Texas Office of the Attorney General, faces of people not affiliated with Planned Parenthood who appear in the video must be blurred, but the entire video can be submitted as evidence. Previously, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who has opposed Pro-Life laws and administrative actions in the past, ruled that Texas could not use the videos as evidence and issued an injunction barring Texas from removing Planned Parenthood from Medicaid contracts until the conclusion of a full trial.
The abortion lobby has delayed the action to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for two years. Pro-Lifers have noted that the alarming evidence from the Center for Medical Progress is not the sole basis for the state’s compelling case to remove tax dollars from Planned Parenthood affiliates across the state. Affiliates have committed Medicaid fraud to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. In one case, the group only had to furnish fifteen cents for every dollar they stole from taxpayers. Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates were caught billing Medicaid for services that were never provided and were not indicated (for example, a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate invoiced taxpayers for birth control in the name of women who had already been sterilized).
This week’s ruling by the Fifth Circuit strengthens the state’s case and is a positive step in the years’ long process to remove America’s largest abortion business from the Texas Medicaid program. Unfortunately, even with this positive step, we anticipate a long road ahead to the conclusion of this legal battle. In the meantime, Texas Right to Life has worked with legislators to craft bills that would codify prohibitions on state funding to the abortion industry. The political games of House leadership killed these important Pro-Life measures both in the regular session and in the First Called Special Session of the Texas Legislature. Pro-Life advocates across the state took notice and plan to hold their representatives accountable.