Court Battles

Judge blocks Texas effort to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

A district court judge in Texas moved late Wednesday evening to temporarily halt the state’s effort to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program just hours before the state was set to do so.

A state district judge in Travis County, Maya Guerra Gamble, granted three Planned Parenthood affiliates operating in Texas a temporary restraining order while setting a hearing for Feb. 17.

“It appears from the specific facts set forth in the verified Application for Temporary Restraining Order, and the evidence submitted to the Court, if any, that immediate and irreparable harm will result to Providers before notice can be served on the OIG and HHSC and a hearing can be held on Providers’ request for a temporary restraining order unless the OIG and HHSC are restrained as requested,” Gamble wrote, referring to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and its Office of Inspector General.

Texas officials had sent a notice to Planned Parenthood providers in late January stating they would be kicked out of Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor. 

The organization is seeking to continue to receive Medicaid funding to provide non-abortion services, and filed an emergency lawsuit asking courts to institute a temporary restraining order Wednesday alleging that Texas failed to issue a “proper termination notice” under state law governing which providers are covered by Medicaid.

“For now, if courts don’t immediately step in to block [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott’s harmful order, 8,000 Texans with low incomes could lose access to critical, life-saving health care, including cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and birth control,” Planned Parenthood said in a decision ahead of the judge’s order. The organization’s Texas affiliates did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday evening.

“Texas’s Medicaid ‘defunding’ offers a clear example of how critical it is for the Biden-Harris administration to stop attacks that target the reproductive health care of people with low incomes, women, and people of color,” the organization continued.

State health officials originally planned to remove Planned Parenthood from Texas’s Medicaid plan on Thursday. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last year sided with the state in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood, the culmination of a years-long Republican effort started by former Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Their efforts could end up setting off a battle with the Biden administration, which signaled Thursday that it would enforce federal Medicaid guidelines governing which organizations receive funding.

“Well the president’s views are clear and consistent on this issue,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her daily news briefing. “Just last week in an executive order he reissued guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers. HHS would certainly have more specific details but they have stated they are committed to protecting and strengthening the Medicaid program as is the President consistent with the Executive Order we released last week.”

Updated 10:30 p.m.

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