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After nearly five years of fighting for our patients’ right to access health care from the trusted provider of their choosing, we received a devastating decision in Texas. On March 10, a state court ruled that Texas could exclude Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program, blocking 8,000 patients from accessing essential health care – like cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control – at any Planned Parenthood health center in Texas.

This cruel decision is the culmination of a baseless, years-long political attack on Planned Parenthood that jeopardizes health care for vulnerable Texans in the middle of a pandemic. Tragically, this decision will most harm women and people of color who disproportionately are enrolled in public health programs like Medicaid. This ruling means that the very communities already facing systemic discrimination, greater barriers to care, and disparately worse health outcomes will now also lose their freedom to choose the health care provider that best serves their needs.

Gov. Greg Abbott and other politicians continue to pursue an extremist anti-abortion agenda at the expense of thousands of low-income Texans, despite being in direct conflict with federal Medicaid law. In February, the Biden Administration reaffirmed that no state is allowed to refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, and that doing so threatens the state’s entire Medicaid program – on which 4 million people rely for basic health care.

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, PPGC medical director of primary and trans care, fears that, left with few places to turn, many of the 8,000 Texas Medicaid patients who rely on Planned Parenthood will be forced to forgo health care, including life-saving services like cancer screenings and HIV testing. PPGC saw nearly 4,000 of those patients in 2019.

“The fact remains that there are still not sufficient Medicaid providers to absorb Planned Parenthood patients in Texas,” Dr. Kumar said, a fact supported by experts including the American Public Health Association. “For a group of folks who is already severely marginalized, this is just one other thing they are having to deal with, and it’s just really unfortunate and really unnecessary.”

For decades, Planned Parenthood has been an essential part of the public health safety net in Texas, providing high-quality and accessible health care to thousands of patients through the Medicaid program in a state with a severe provider shortage. Now more than ever, people need expanded, uninterrupted access to health care. Instead, Gov. Abbott and his allies continue to play politics with Texans’ lives, putting one more hurdle before the same communities struggling the most from COVID-19 and statewide power outages. Planned Parenthood is deeply saddened by the state’s actions. Health care is a human right, and we will continue to do everything we can to prevent extremist politicians from infringing on that right.

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