Despite Abbott’s boasts, state has not blocked Planned Parenthood funds

Despite Abbott's boasts, state has not blocked Planned Parenthood funds

Edgar Walters and Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune , WFAA

Feeding on outrage sparked by the release of controversial undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials, Gov. Greg Abbott vowed one year ago to cut off $3.1 million in Medicaid funding that the organization’s Texas affiliates receive to provide family planning and women’s health care services to the poor.

Because of its abortion services — which are separate from the health programs and receive no public funds — the organization is hardly an uncommon target of Republican rhetorical assaults. But Abbott’s 2015 pledge was oddly timed. It came the same day a federal district court in Louisiana told that state it could not legally kick Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program.

Although the same legal reasoning appeared to apply to Texas, Abbott quickly used the defunding pledge as fodder to solicit donations for his hefty campaign war chest. How much money the first-term governor raised off the issue is unclear.

What is clear one year later, however, is that roughly 12,000 low-income women in Texas are still obtaining services from Planned Parenthood through the Medicaid program, which is mostly federally funded. And state leaders who spearheaded the charge to cut off funding have little to say about their failure to do so.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Abbott was “disappointed and troubled by the lack of progress” in defunding the women’s health organization but that he still expects the issue to “move forward.”

“As Gov. Abbott has previously stated, the gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas,” Ciara Matthews, the spokeswoman, said in an email. There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood harvests fetal tissue in Texas, as claimed by anti-abortion activists.

The flare-up began last year with the release of undercover videos filmed by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, which showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue for research. Anti-abortion advocates claimed the footage proved the women’s health organization had improperly collected aborted fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood vehemently denied those claims, and there’s been no evidence so far to prove any wrongdoing on the organization’s part. But Texas Republicans used outrage provoked by the videos — and unspecified allegations of billing fraud — to begin the process of cutting off the $3.1 million in Medicaid funding Planned Parenthood receives for its Texas health care programs.

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