Fifth Circuit rules Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid program

Five years ago, the pro-life group Centers for Medical Progress released several undercover videos damning to Planned Parenthood that led to a storm of attacks against the well known abortion provider.

Texas, for its part, responded by taking steps to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state.

The matter has been caught up in federal courts for years, but now an en banc opinion from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals takes sides with Texas to allow exclusion of Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program by the state.

“Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a press release.

“Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program,” he added.

The new opinion from the Fifth Circuit overturns a previous ruling heard by a panel of judges on the same court in Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, wherein the court ruled that the State of Louisiana could not exclude Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program.

Louisiana appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but the petition was denied.

At the center of the Fifth Circuit ruling on Monday, the court particularly examined whether Medicaid patients have a right under Section 1983 of the U.S. public health code to challenge “a State’s determination that a health care provider is not ‘qualified’” under their Medicaid program.

While the Fifth Circuit held in January 2019 that a lower court had incorrectly blocked Texas’ decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program, they still maintained precedent set in Gee that Medicaid patients could bring a challenge under Section 1983.

The court subsequently held an en banc hearing in May 2019 to reconsider that decision.

In overruling Gee, the Fifth Circuit determined that Medicaid patients do not have a right to challenge a state’s determination of whether or not a healthcare provider is “qualified” to be a part of the state’s Medicaid program.

The opinion is a victory for the state, but Planned Parenthood and Texas will likely continue to face each other in courts over the issue.

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