Yesterday, a district judge in Travis County prolonged Planned Parenthood’s life as an official Medicaid provider in Texas for at least 14 more days.
The eleventh-hour ruling by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the 459th Civil District Court paused the removal of Planned Parenthood from the state’s list of Medicaid providers, itself the culmination of a years-long legal battle. The temporary restraining order against the state will end on February 17, when Gamble will decide whether to issue a more lasting injunction against Texas and keep federal money flowing through the organization.
Undercover videos of Planned Parenthood higher-ups negotiating the prices of fetal remains first prompted Texas to cut the company from the Medicaid program in 2015. Texas then sent a final notice of termination to Planned Parenthood in December of 2016.
However, a U.S. district judge ruled in favor of the organization in 2017, discounting the video and saying he was “not convinced all of [Planned Parenthood’s] patients would be able to quickly and easily find new providers if they were prevented from seeing their chosen provider, a harm in and of itself.”
After this loss, Texas went on to win at a higher appeals court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided against Planned Parenthood in late 2020, ruling that Texas’ choice to cut the company from Medicaid was legitimate.
“A state agency may determine that a Medicaid provider is unqualified and terminate its Medicaid provider agreement even if the provider is lawfully permitted to provide health services to the general public,” the ruling reads.
In response, Planned Parenthood asked the state to keep them on as a Medicaid provider in light of the pandemic or at least grant them a six-month grace period. On January 4, 2021, Texas counter-offered with a 30-day grace period “to ensure that current Medicaid clients receiving services at your clinics can be transitioned to new providers.”
Yesterday, Gamble ruled to keep Planned Parenthood on the list of Medicaid providers hours before those 30 days came to a close.
Planned Parenthood argued before Gamble that the state’s January 4 letter of termination did not abide by state laws requiring reasonable notice and an opportunity for a hearing. Texas argued that the notices of termination in 2015 and 2016 already fulfilled these requirements.
Thanks to the federal Hyde Amendment, Medicaid money cannot fund abortions. Abortion companies like Planned Parenthood must separate the federal funds they receive for Medicaid from the revenue they generate from abortions. An erstwhile supporter of the Hyde Amendment, President Joe Biden has recently turned against the provision.