Texas is one step closer to choking Planned Parenthood from receiving crucial Medicaid reimbursements thanks to a terrible decision from the conservative-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
On Thursday, the appeals court gave credibility to the deceptively edited sting videos created in 2015 by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress that alleged, falsely, that Planned Parenthood sells aborted fetuses for profit. In 2016, a Texas grand jury indicted CMP’s David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on felony and misdemeanor charges, finding no evidence of wrongdoing against the organization (multiple state and federal investigations into Planned Parenthood also turned up nothing). However, a Texas judge dropped the misdemeanor charge on procedural grounds, and then the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dropped all remaining charges.
Nonetheless, Texas Republicans used the videos to justify kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program. In 2017, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled against the state, saying the state failed to provide “even a scintilla of evidence” of why Planned Parenthood should be denied funding, and admonished the state for failing to verify the accuracy or authenticity of the videos.
Per the Washington Post, Sparks likened Texas to villains in a fictional plot of a “best-selling novel,” writing that in this case, the subject is “the State of Texas’s efforts to expel a group of health care providers from a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources.”
The 5th Circuit’s Judge Edith Jones, however, found that the deceptive videos offered compelling evidence that Planned Parenthood might did not meet the “standards of medical ethics.” Jones, who is known for her racism and bad opinions on rape, in 2004 issued an opinion strongly condemning abortion, writing that she hopes that the Court will one day “re-evaluate Roe and Casey.”
“OIG is the agency that the state of Texas has empowered to investigate and penalize Medicaid program violations. The agency is in the business of saying when providers are qualified and when they are not,” Jones wrote. “It is [odd] to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”
Texas was one of several states to cite the videos in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Whereas efforts in Kansas and Louisiana failed, however, the Washington Post explains how Texas prevailed:
The ruling from the 5th Circuit effectively gives weight to the sting videos and the conclusions Texas reached based on them in a way the court hasn’t offered before. It comes just one month after the Supreme Court left in place a previous ruling by the 5th Circuit in favor of Planned Parenthood. In that case, the 5th Circuit rejected Louisiana’s effort to defund the health-care provider that had been based in part on the sting videos, mostly because the state hadn’t actually cited the videos in writing when announcing its decision to terminate the Planned Parenthood contract and lacked other adequate reasoning. (The Supreme Court also declined to hear a similar effort from Kansas.)
But Texas did cite the videos, in a state report — and that’s the big difference.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a guy who also fights sanctuary cities and suppresses minority votes by chasing the voter fraud myth, represented the state in the case and applauded the ruling. “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,” he said.
The appeals court, which says that Sparks gave “no deference” to the state’s findings, has sent the case back to him for review.