5th Circuit gives Texas a win against Planned Parenthood
AUSTIN — The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a preliminary injunction that stopped Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider Thursday, giving the state the green light to nix the abortion provider as a beneficiary of the federal program and try the case again in district court.
The ruling offers a win to Texas which has long sought to defund the abortion provider. The court based in New Orleans remanded the case back to an Austin judge where the court is to limit its review to the state agency’s record under an “arbitrary-and-capricious” standard.
The ruling penned by Circuit Judge Edith Jones specified that the agency’s decision to remove Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider “may only be overturned if it fails to satisfy ‘minimum standards of rationality’.” .
District Court Judge Sam Sparks erred in February of 2018 when determining a what constitutes a “qualified” provider in the case, according to the 5th Circuit ruling. The court also found fault with Sparks’ finding that state officials sought to remove Planned Parenthood from the program “without cause.”
The case stems from the 2015 undercover video footage taken by people posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company. The edited videos featured graphic conversations with Planned Parenthood personnel about the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses for medical purposes. The conversation included comments from a Planned Parenthood representative about whether it was possible to change the timing of abortions to procure fetal tissue.
Texas argued the videos were justification for terminating the organization as a Medicaid provider because the comments at a Houston Planned Parenthood facility indicated the provider was non-compliant with medical and ethical standards. The Harris County District Attorney, Texas Ranger and the Houston Police Department investigated and brought no charges.
Judge Sparks issued a preliminary injunction to stop action from the state in 2017, ruling the Texas Health and Humans Services Commission likely tried to kick Planned Parenthood from Medicaid without cause.
Neither the Health and Human Services Commission nor Planned Parenthood responded to a request for comment late Thursday.
“Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release late Thursday.