Austin, Texas — Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and 10 patient co-plaintiffs today filed suit against the state of Texas in order to protect care for more than 13,000 patients whose access to HIV screening, cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care at Planned Parenthood is at risk. Three days after the state announced plans to end Medicaid contracts for Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, state officials raided the nonprofit’s health centers, seemingly in an attempt to justify its politically motivated actions. Planned Parenthood is requesting emergency relief from the courts, without which the patients who access healthcare coverage through Texas’s Medicaid programs could lose access to their trusted healthcare provider—and possibly these essential services altogether—as early as December 8.
The filing was announced on a conference call this afternoon with Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Dr. Hal Lawrence, MD, Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Jeffery Hons, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Texas; and Kendra Hudson, a patient spokesperson.
One of Planned Parenthood’s patient co-plaintiffs, a 22-year-old full-time student from Williamson County, said “I think it is important for Medicaid patients to have access to Planned Parenthood clinics for high quality, accessible care. For me, it is a matter of health, and also of opportunity—the opportunity for women to control our fertility so that we can pursue an education and plan our future. I had a great experience at Planned Parenthood, and I want to go back for further care when I need it. I hope that I can continue going there for care. If not, I don’t know where I will go.”
Across the country, politicians are threatening to block access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers, which would have real and devastating consequences on our patients. In Ohio, politicians are taking aim at patients who relied on Planned Parenthood for 47,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections in 2015—insisting patients can turn to dentist offices, school nurses, and a food bank for this care. Ohio is not the first state to insist that dentists can perform women’s gynecological exams. After attempting to cut off Louisiana’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, attorneys for the Jindal administration claimed that Planned Parenthood’s more than 5,200 Medicaid patients could go to dentists, orthopedists, and audiologists for reproductive healthcare. In Utah, Governor Herbert’s own Department of Health advised him that blocking care at Planned Parenthood was a would be a “bad idea” and put people’s health at risk—that 4,400 men and women would not receive STD testing, and that 3,725 people with chlamydia or gonorrhea and their partners would not receive treatment.
“Politicians in Texas seem to have decided it’s their job to think of new and creative ways they can decimate women’s reproductive health and rights. We have seen the very real and very devastating consequences for Texas women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood—with tens of thousands going without access to birth control, HIV tests, and cancer screenings,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Texas is a cautionary tale for the whole nation—with politicians in Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio, and Louisiana trying to do the very same thing. Taken together, these measures threaten to devastate access to critical healthcare and education across vast regions of the country—all in the name of politics. Officials who oppose women’s health may think they can bully us out of providing care for our patients, but we will not back down, and we will not shut our doors.”
“With so few options for care available already for Medicaid patients in Texas, making care even harder to access—for the sake of politics—demonstrates a new low for our state leaders,” said Ken Lambrecht, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Texas. “Today we take that fight to court, and stand with real patients to prevent politicians from denying them the right to high quality, compassionate care through Planned Parenthood health centers. For over 80 years Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas has been here for Texans who need us. We will be here for as long as we are needed, no matter what.”
“Preventing health centers affiliated with Planned Parenthood from treating women, in Texas or other states, will without question keep women from getting important preventive care and screening services,” said Hal C. Lawrence, MD, Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “We cannot continue imposing barriers to care on women. And when we do it in a way that disproportionately impacts underserved or low-income women, we are growing the health disparities that we should be focused on reducing.”
Federal courts recently blocked similar efforts to restrict access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Utah. In the lawsuit filed today, Planned Parenthood argues that the state of Texas’s attempts to terminate its provider agreement violates federal law because it prevents their Medicaid-enrolled patients obtaining care at their provider of choice. The courts and the Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Certification (CMCS) have been clear that federal law prohibits states from interfering with Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to the qualified provider of their choice. To date, two federal Courts of Appeals, the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, have agreed. Both courts blocked laws that sought to exclude abortion providers from Medicaid that were enacted in Indiana and Arizona. The Supreme Court declined to review both of those rulings. CMCS clearly stated in an informational memo dated June 2011: “States are not, however, permitted to exclude providers from the program solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide.”
Tragically, we’ve seen the consequences for women and men in Texas when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood—with tens of thousands now going without care. Despite false claims by politicians carrying out these attacks across the country, other providers simply cannot absorb Planned Parenthood patients. In January, the State of Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a grim report revealing that 30,000 fewer women received healthcare through the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) in 2013 than in 2011, following the state’s takeover of the program in order to ban Planned Parenthood. The Dallas Morning News reported that “the areas with the highest drops in the number of women served by the WHP occurred in areas where Planned Parenthood clinics shuttered.” A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the state’s family planning program served 54 percent fewer patients as a result of the 2011 budget cuts and tiered funding scheme that blocked access to care at Planned Parenthood. In a recent study, more than half of Texas women reported at least one barrier to accessing reproductive healthcare, including lifesaving cancer screenings or family-planning services.
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas care for more than 120,000 patients at nearly 40 health centers in the state. Nearly half of Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas are located in underserved patient communities. The patients targeted by the state of Texas’s politically motivated attacks face myriad extraordinary obstacles to accessing care and resources. For example, a woman with dependent children qualifies for Medicaid only if she has an income up to 15 percent of the federal poverty level, which amounts to an annual household income of $3,013.50 for a family of three. In 2014, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas provided thousands of STI and STD tests through Medicaid. Texas currently has one of the highest STD rates in the country, ranking third in congenital syphilis, 10th in chlamydia, 12th in gonorrhea, and 13th in primary and secondary syphilis.
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 approximately 700 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.
November 24, 2015