Image: The home page of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Inc., a major abortion provider in southeast Texas. That corporation was among the plaintiffs who lost a major ruling in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit at New Orleans on Monday, November 23, 2020.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Houston and New Orleans, November 24 – Planned Parenthood, a number of its umbrella organizations, and a number of individuals ostensibly wanting abortions lost a major ruling in the United States Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit on Monday, November 23, 2020. The ruling in Planned Parenthood versus Sylvia Hernandez Kauffman overturned a preliminary injunction, which a United States District Court Judge in San Antonio issued, which forbade the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) from disqualifying Planned Parenthood to receive federal Medicaid funds as a result of the organization’s fetal tissue harvesting.
The HHSC’s Inspector General, Sylvia Kauffman, determined that Planned Parenthood was “not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal[,] and ethical manner under the relevant provisions of state and federal law pertaining to Medicaid providers.” HHSC began to investigate Planned Parenthood in 2015 after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a pro-life organization, released video recordings of conversations that occurred at PP Gulf Coast headquarters in Houston. The CMP videos depict two individuals posing as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company discussing the possibility of a research partnership with PP Gulf Coast.
The release of these videos prompted Congressional investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report, as did a House Select Investigative Panel of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. An alternative report to the House Committee’s report was issued by committee members in the minority.
In October 2015, HHSC sent each Provider a Notice of Termination of its respective Medicaid provider agreement, stating that each was “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner.” The Notice listed the bases for termination and stated that, unless the Providers responded within thirty days, a Final Notice of Termination would issue.
Planned Parenthood-related providers and seven individuals who sought abortion services from those providers sued in federal court to block HHSC’s termination in the Medicaid program.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in an en banc opinion determined that the individual plaintiffs did not have standing to bring such a lawsuit, which resulted in overturning the District Court’s preliminary injunction, because the District Court had based its ruling entirely upon the individuals’ claims rather than those of the Planned Parenthood organization plaintiffs. Specifically, the Court of Appeals opinion, which Chief Judge Priscilla Owen, a President George W. Bush nominee, wrote, holds that only the medical providers, and not those patients who seek medical services, could have standing to challenge a Notice of Termination.
As a result, the Court of Appeals vacated and voided the District Court’s preliminary injunction.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said of the ruling, “The Fifth Circuit correctly rejected Planned Parenthood’s efforts to prevent Texas from excluding them from the state’s Medicaid program. Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research. Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.”
The case is likely to go to the United States Supreme Court, because other Circuit Courts of Appeals have issued conflicting rulings. One Court of Appeals in Saint Louis reached the same conclusion of the Fifth Circuit, i.e., that individual patients lack standing to challenge a termination of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid Provider. Five other Circuit Courts of Appeals, including the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, have reached an opposite ruling.