Texas Justifies Crackdown On Planned Parenthood By Citing Right-Wing Media's Favorite Discredited Anti-Choice Videos
Research ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS
Texas has become the latest of several states to use deceptively-edited videos produced by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress and promoted in right-wing media as a reason to attack Planned Parenthood. After informing the health care provider that it will no longer be reimbursed for treating low-income patients with funds from the state's Medicaid program -- a maneuver that has been ruled illegal elsewhere in the country -- Texas officials issued sweeping subpoenas and requests to Planned Parenthood clinics across the state for thousands of documents going back five years, including patient records and medical information, and employees' salaries and home addresses.
Center For Medical Progress Baselessly Alleges Planned Parenthood Providers In Texas Are Performing Abortions Illegally
Anti-Choice Group Released Deceptively-Edited Videos To Smear Planned Parenthood, Including One Secretly Filmed In A Texas Clinic. Since July 14, the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released more than 10 highly-edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood. A video released August 4 by the group featured a covertly-recorded conversation between CMP actors and the Texas-based Director of Research for Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast. A deceptively-edited shorter version of the video purports to show the Planned Parenthood official agreeing to alter an abortion procedure to obtain more intact fetal tissue, but the longer version of video reveals how CMP edited out audio of the Planned Parenthood official saying they still use the "standard process" and always ensure patient safety. [Media Matters, 8/4/15; 8/31/15]
Right-Wing Media Have Repeatedly Pushed False Allegations Against Planned Parenthood, Defended Discredited Videos. Since CMP's videos were released, right-wing media have repeatedly defended the integrity of the highly-manipulated footage and the accuracy of CMP's claims, despite the fact that multiple investigations have proven that the videos are deceptively edited and CMP's allegations against Planned Parenthood are devoid of facts. [Fox News, Cavuto, via Media Matters,9/25/15; Fox Business Network, Varney & Co., via Media Matters, 9/24/15; Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, via Media Matters, 7/27/15; Media Matters, 7/22/15]
Texas Uses Deceptively-Edited Videos From Anti-Choice Group To Harass Planned Parenthood
Texas Office Of Inspector General Issues Notice To Remove Planned Parenthood From State's Medicaid Program Citing Footage In CMP's Videos. On October 19, Texas' Office of Inspector General notified Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas of its plan to revoke their eligibility to participate in the state's Medicaid program, which serves low-income patients. Officials cited alleged "violations" found in the videos released by CMP for their decision. From the Dallas Morning News (emphasis added):
The Texas Office of the Inspector General announced Monday that it has taken steps to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from the state's Medicaid program, citing violations observed in recently released undercover videos.
An anti-abortion group began releasing videos in July that show undercover activists impersonating representatives of a tissue procurement company in order to meet with Planned Parenthood officials. The group alleges that Planned Parenthood is profiting from tissue donation reimbursements.
A video from inside a Houston abortion clinic was released in August.
The "violations" cited by the Inspector General include a suggestion in the video that doctors could use a different method to perform an abortion in order to preserve intact fetal tissue, and that Planned Parenthood created an unsanitary work environment for allowing access to the undercover group.
Planned Parenthood officials on both a state and national level have denied claims that they have broken the law or turned a profit from fetal tissue donation. The videos, they say, are heavily edited.
Gov. Greg Abbott praised the move as an "unyielding commitment to both protecting life and providing women's health services." [Dallas Morning News, 10/19/15]
Texas Health And Human Services Commission "Delivered Subpoenas To At Least Three Clinics Requesting Thousands Of Files, Including 'Ultrasound Records.'" On October 22, Texas Health and Human Services Commission investigators visited Planned Parenthood clinics in four cities and delivered official requests and subpoenas for thousands of documents, including patient records "related to Medicaid patients who donated fetal tissue after obtaining an abortion." From the Texas Tribune (emphasis added):
Days after Texas health officials announced they want to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program, state investigators on Thursday visited Planned Parenthood facilities in San Antonio, Houston Dallas and Brownsville.
Investigators with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's investigative arm delivered requests to Planned Parenthood facilities in all four cities asking for Medicaid records, billing information and personnel information, according to Planned Parenthood officials. Additionally, investigators delivered subpoenas to at least three facilities requesting all records, including "ultrasound records," related to Medicaid patients who donated fetal tissue after obtaining an abortion. A request delivered to a Dallas facility included a request for files from clinics in Austin and Waco.
State health officials would not confirm details about the investigators' visits. A spokesman for the health commission's Office of Inspector General said he could not "provide comment on any oversight or investigative activities."
Among the documents investigators are requesting are Medicaid records dating back to 2010. At Planned Parenthood's facility in Spring, Texas, which does not perform abortions, state investigators are requesting records related to specific services provided to Medicaid patients, employee information and appointment books, according to a letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.
On Monday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's inspector general, Stuart Bowen, wrote to the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast affiliate that the women's health provider had violated state Medicaid rules and put Texans at risk of infection. Citing the undercover videos, Bowen said Planned Parenthood officials disregarded federal law by agreeing to change the timing or method of abortions in order to procure fetal tissue for medical research. [Texas Tribune, 10/22/15]
Several Courts Have Ruled That It Is Illegal To Deny Planned Parenthood Medicaid Reimbursements
States That Have Attempted To Remove Planned Parenthood From Medicaid Rolls Have Been Stopped By Courts. Before and since the release of the Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, other states that have attempted to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid have been blocked from doing so and federal courts found that similar attempts in Arizona and Indiana violated the Medicaid Act. From The Texas Observer:
In Texas, federal Medicaid funding flows through HHSC, which acts as a sort of middleman between the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and health care providers on the ground. Stacey Pogue, health care policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), a left-leaning Texas think tank, told the Observer that a state cannot eliminate a medical provider from the program for reasons other than violations of the law. Indiana and Arizona lost legal battles in 2013 when they tried to block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood on the basis that it offers legal abortions. (Editor's note: The reporter for this story worked as a communications associate at CPPP from May 2012 to July 2014.)
"The state cannot kick a provider out of Medicaid, or discriminate against providers in Medicaid, because they don't like the services they provide or anything that's not related to their license or enrollment as a Medicaid provider," Pogue said. [The Texas Observer, 10/19/15]
Multiple State Investigations Into Allegations Similar To The Texas Claims Have Revealed No Wrongdoing
State Investigations Into The Allegations CMP Claims Its Videos Support Have Found No Illegal Activity By Planned Parenthood. The deceptively-edited and secretly-recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have spurred at least 11 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations. Six states - Missouri, Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania -- and the Department of Health and Human Services have all announced that they found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood or known violations of federal fetal tissue laws. [Media Matters, 8/24/15]
Houston Chronicle Editorial: Texas Planned Parenthood Exclusion From Medicaid "Is About Politics." Following the move by Texas state authorities to cut Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program, the Houston Chronicle wrote that the move "is about politics" and that "this whole fight takes aim at an invented fear." From the Houston Chronicle:
The reason behind the Medicaid cut, according to inspector general Stuart Bowen, rests upon a series of surreptitiously recorded videos released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. Those videos, which were made public this past July and August, purported to show illegal trafficking of fetal tissue. Abbott quickly responded by instructing the Health and Human Services Commission to launch its own investigation into Planned Parenthood.
Investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Dakota found no evidence of lawbreaking. The Texas Attorney General's Office has yet to complete its own investigation into those videos, but it isn't hard to guess what they'll find - nothing. That's because Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas don't currently collect fetal tissue for medical research.
This whole fight takes aim at an invented fear. And even if the Texas Health and Human Services Commission successfully cut Planned Parenthood from its distribution of federal Medicaid dollars, abortion services will remain at the same funding level of essentially zero. The federal family planning program, Title X, provides no money for abortions. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits Medicaid from spending money on abortions except in the rare cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother. [Media Matters, 10/20/15]