AUSTIN — Today, Planned Parenthood is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to maintain critical health care access for people with low incomes in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that could allow the state to “defund” Planned Parenthood. This is the latest in a five-year legal battle stemming from Gov. Abbott’s 2015 attempt to block Medicaid patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas. The federal district court stepped in to prevent this from happening. Then right before Thanksgiving, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that gave Gov. Abbott permission to continue his attack. During legal battles over the last five years, Planned Parenthood affiliates have continued to serve thousands of patients through the Medicaid program each year, without incident or complaints from the Abbott administration.
Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas asked the Abbott administration for time to allow providers time to care for their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect them with new providers. Without this grace period, patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive health care would be abandoned during the pandemic and abruptly left scrambling to find care in an already-overloaded Medicaid system.
During the most devastating public health crisis Texas has faced in a century, Planned Parenthood is calling on the Abbott administration to halt its efforts to dismantle health care for the most vulnerable Texans. This worsens the dual public health crises — systemic racism and COVID-19 — that disproportionately harm women and people of color who rely on programs like Medicaid. Blocking Medicaid patients from accessing basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers would be devastating for the more than 8,000 Texans who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for high-quality, affordable services, including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and more.
Excerpt of remark from Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and trans care, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast:
Anytime health care is restricted, people suffer. And it’s important to note that people of color and women rely on publicly funded health care programs like Medicaid at disproportionate rates because of systemic racism and discrimination in our country. There are no two ways about it: Blocking Medicaid patients from care at Planned Parenthood creates yet another sexist and racist barrier to affordable health care at a time when people need it most. Now, we’re asking the Abbott administration to give us time to ensure health care is not disrupted for more than 8,000 Texans. It’s the least they can do for the thousands of people who could soon lose their trusted provider in the middle of a pandemic.
Excerpt of remark from Vanessa Rodriguez, call center manager, Planned Parenthood Greater Texas:
Even before COVID-19 pushed our public health infrastructure to the brink, our patients enrolled in Medicaid had trouble getting an appointment quickly. And importantly, they do not feel safe or comfortable seeking sexual and reproductive health care with any provider. Patients should be able to access health care where they choose and, for many patients, that is at Planned Parenthood.
Excerpt of remark from Jeffrey Hons, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood South Texas:
We implore the state of Texas to, at the very least, do the minimum: Allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing care in the Medicaid program during the current crisis and give our patients time to find other providers, so they don’t go without care during a pandemic. The health care network for Medicaid recipients is not always easy to manage, and care is not always easy to find. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing pressures on our safety- net infrastructure. The people who rely on Medicaid are the most vulnerable Texans, and likely experiencing some of the worst economic effects of the pandemic. Forcing people — many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, and care for their families in a global pandemic — to scramble for basic health care is terrible policy, certainly uncharitable, indeed un-American.
Excerpt of remark from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
This is what it looks like when people in power are losing their grip and take desperate actions to control our bodies, lives, and future. The right to self-determination shouldn’t be tied to your zip code –– yet because of attacks like this one, for thousands of Texans, reproductive freedom is still out of reach. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for patients to have the right to make their own decisions about their health providers, their bodies, and their futures.
Governor Abbott’s attempts to block Medicaid patients from getting care at the Planned Parenthood providers was the latest in a long history of Texas' attempts to score political points with relentless attacks on Planned Parenthood patients. And during the 2019 legislative session, Texas politicians passed Senate Bill 22 — banning local governments from partnerships with expert providers, such as Planned Parenthood, for health care and education services.
Numerous other states have tried to terminate Planned Parenthood providers from Medicaid for baseless reasons, but most have been blocked by courts from doing so.
Generations of racist and discriminatory policies force a disproportionate number of people of color and women to enroll in public health programs like Medicaid. When politicians attack Medicaid patients, people of color and women — who already navigate inherently discriminatory systems with fewer freedoms than others — lose the ability to choose the provider best for them. It’s just one more assault against the same communities that face unjust, systemic barriers to basic human rights, including access to affordable health care, education, and housing.
This imminent threat to comprehensive health care access for Medicaid patients follows years of attempts by Texas to cut off Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood based on a series of elaborate, false, and debunked claims peddled by the Center for Medical Progress. In 2011, Texas replaced the federal-backed Medicaid family planning program with its own state-funded program when the Obama administration refused to allow the Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from its Medicaid program. Earlier this year, the Trump administration allowed federal funds to go back into Texas’ failed program, which is serving 39 percent fewer women and merely a fraction of the millions who critically need reproductive health care.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Texas is the 501(c)(3) organizing and education arm of the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.