The Texas Health and Human Services Commission notified Planned Parenthood on Monday that it will terminate the reproductive health provider's Medicaid contract. The move is a response to the sting videos created by an anti-abortion group that showed the organization's staff members discussing the donation of fetal tissue to medical researchers.
In the letter, Texas accuses Planned Parenthood of violating the terms of the Medicaid contract, citing three claims from the videos: that Planned Parenthood alters the timing or method of abortions in order to procure tissue for donation, that it does not follow proper safety precautions and that it failed to properly train its staff in "infection control and barrier precautions."
"We have begun terminating your enrollment because, based on the evidence outlined below, you are Liable, directly or by affiliation, for a series of serious Medicaid program violations," the letter reads. "The State has determined that you and your Planned Parenthood affiliates are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner."
The letter does not specifically say which sting video it is referring to in its claims about Planned Parenthood's conduct. However, one of the videos is partially shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. The video shows two actors, who are using fake driver's licenses to pose as research executives, going on a tour of the clinic to investigate fetal tissue donation.
Planned Parenthood's affiliate in Texas has repeatedly stated that none of its clinics participate in fetal tissue donation programs. In 2010, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast collaborated with the University of Texas Medical Branch, a publicly funded hospital, on a miscarriage study that involved fetal tissue.
Moreover, accepting reimbursements for the donation of fetal tissue for medical research is legal if the reimbursement covers the cost of processing and transferring the tissues. Even so, Planned Parenthood announced last week that it would cease accepting such payments at the only center where the organization had been getting reimbursed. Just one other center in the country engages in a fetal tissue donation program, but no reimbursement payments are made there. Numerous state and federal investigations have failed to show that the provider has engaged in any illegal activity.
“What's happening today in Texas should be a national scandal," said Dawn Laguens, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "It is completely outrageous that Texas officials are using these thoroughly discredited, fraudulent videos to cut women off from preventive health care, including cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control. This smear campaign has been completely discredited because the claims are completely false."
A number of other states have moved to cut Planned Parenthood out of their Medicare contracts or to cease directing federal funds for family planning services, cancer screenings and STI tests to the organization.
Planned Parenthood recently sued Louisiana for attempting to end its Medicaid contract. On Monday, the Department of Justice sided with the health care provider: A federal judge blocked the state's effort, arguing that a termination of the contract would violate federal law by hurting low-income patients.
Texas claimed in its letter Monday that ending Planned Parenthood's contract won't affect access to health care because "there are thousands of alternate providers in Texas, including federally qualified health centers, Medicaid-certified rural health clinics, and other health care providers across the State that participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program and Medicaid."
In 2013, Texas barred Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s Women's Health Program. The program served 30,000 fewer women after Planned Parenthood's exclusion, and the biggest drops in patients served occurred in areas where a Planned Parenthood clinic was forced to close.
This year, Texas went further, barring Planned Parenthood from providing services to low-income Texans who receive cancer screenings and treatment through the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program.