A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [text, PDF] on Tuesday to halt Texas’ plan to cut Medicaid [official website] funding for Planned Parenthood [advocacy website]. The injunction prevents the state from cutting funding until a trial is held. Judge Sam Sparks based his decision heavily on the merits of the case and the evidence presented by the state, the majority of which came from an eight-hour video released in 2015 by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress [advocacy website], which was previously investigated by grand jury and dismissed in Planned Parenthood’s favor. Sparks went on to say, “the Inspector General relied on an unauthenticated video” and “it appears the termination decision had nothing to do with the Provider Plaintiffs’ qualifications” under Medicaid policy. He also pointed out that “such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider.” Planned Parenthood has 34 health centers [Reuters report] in Texas and serves more than 120,000 patients, 11,000 of whom are Medicaid patients. During fiscal year 2015, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas received about $4.2 million in Medicaid funding. Critics of the defunding have argued that none of the Medicaid funds were used for abortions, and consequently the plan would jeopardize the availability of its other services such as HIV care and cancer screenings.
Abortion restrictions have been a much contested issue in Texas and other states in recent years. Much of the discussion is about when a proposed state law regulating abortion can be considered an undue burden on access to abortion. The US Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a Texas law in June 2016, that imposed certain requirements on abortion clinics and doctors. A regulation mandating the burial of fetal remains in Texas was challenged [JURIST report] in court in December by abortion rights groups. Sparks temporarily suspended [JURIST report] the regulation in December and extended the suspension [JURIST report] in January.