October 19, 2015; Reuters
In NPQ’s coverage of Planned Parenthood’s response to the videos by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, we have also been following the responses from states and politicians threatening action against the organization. Yesterday, news coming out of Texas and Louisiana furthered the funding controversy for the national nonprofit. Texas barred Planned Parenthood from receiving further state Medicaid funds, while at the same time a judge in Louisiana blocked governor Bobby Jindal’s efforts to defund the organization.
Texas joins Alabama, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Ohio among the states that have already cut funding as a direct result of the videos, some of which allegedly showed current and former Planned Parenthood staff members cavalierly discussing fetal tissue donation.
“The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
While Jindal originally cut ties with the organization for similar reasons, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles issued a temporary restraining order forcing the state to continue to provide funding to Planned Parenthood clinics for the next two weeks until the issue is worked out legally. Although Louisiana clinics have always denied any wrongdoing, spokesperson for the state health agency Olivia Watkins said that an internal investigation found fault back in September.
“During the course of the state investigation into Planned Parenthood, it was discovered that Planned Parenthood is in violation of long-standing administrative rules applicable to Medicaid providers,” said Watkins in a statement.
However, according to deGravelles, he anticipates Planned Parenthood would be able to prove any efforts to defund the organization are not related to issues of incompetence or wrongdoing.
In his ruling, deGravelles writes, “In fact, the uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that (Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast) does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities.”
Planned Parenthood is engaged in similar court battles in Utah, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps Texas as well. “We will fight back against this outrageous, malicious, political attack in Texas with everything we’ve got, and we will protect women’s access to the health care they need and deserve,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Along with legal efforts, Planned Parenthood has also been responding with policy changes. Only last week, the organization announced, without admitting any wrongdoing, that it would no longer accept any compensation for fetal tissue donations. In defending itself from the allegations of the Center for Medical Progress and others, the nonprofit has always said it accepted reimbursement only for the cost of transporting the fetal donation to a facility after a procedure. However, as Judge deGravelles noted, the controversy is distanced from the competence of the organization, and for that reason, it seems far from over.—Shafaq Hasan