A federal judge in Texas ruled Tuesday that state health officials cannot remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, ensuring that the women’s health provider will remain in the federal program at least until a federal lawsuit is settled.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued the preliminary injunction that temporarily blocked the move and said the state didn’t have grounds to conclude that Planned Parenthood “warranted termination from the Medicaid program as unqualified,” the Dallas Morning News reports.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a prepared statement that the decision “is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency.”
According to NPR, the state justified its action by citing the undercover videos of alleged illegal organ sales that were the subject of a case last year:
In trying to justify its action, state officials have pointed to undercover videos recorded by anti-abortion activists in Houston. Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen referred to “misconduct” in the videos in a letter notifying Planned Parenthood of the defunding plans in December.
A grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood and instead indicted two people who recorded the videos for tampering with a government record and illegally offering to purchase human organs.
The indictments were later dismissed on technical grounds.
Sparks poked fun at the video justification in his ruling.
“A secretly recorded video, fake names, a grand jury indictment, congressional investigations—these are the building blocks of a best-selling novel rather than a case concerning the interplay of federal and state authority through the Medicaid program,” Sparks wrote, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Yet, rather than a villain plotting to take over the world, the subject of this case is the state of Texas’ efforts to expel a group of health care providers from a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources.”
From the Dallas Morning News:
The eight-hour video in question showed Planned Parenthood employees at a Houston abortion clinic discussing how fetal tissue is collected for donations and used in research projects. The video was submitted as evidence in the case, and attorneys played a small selection during court proceedings in January.
The state claimed that Planned Parenthood was breaking the law by offering to alter abortion procedures to obtain specific quantities of tissue for research projects and that the provider was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Melissa Farrell, the employee captured on the tape, testified that she was only discussing modifying how the clinic handles tissue after an abortion, not changing the procedure.
Planned Parenthood says that about 75 percent of the more than $500 million it receives each year from the U.S. government comes from Medicaid.
A federal regulation finalized in December bars states that award federally funded grants for women’s health programs from discriminating against Planned Parenthood.