Fifth Circuit Allows Texas To Pull Taxpayer Funds From Planned Parenthood Over Human Body Part Trafficking Videos

Fifth Circuit Allows Texas To Pull Taxpayer Funds From Planned Parenthood Over Human Body Part Trafficking Videos

Several years later, the effect of the Center for Medical Progress’s videos are still rippling through the legal and cultural debate on abortion.
Nicole Russell
By

Late last week, the Fifth Circuit ruled to lift an injunction which had previously blocked the state of Texas from removing Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. The ruling follows Texas’ attempt to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding after the Center for Medical Progress unveiled a slew of explosive undercover videos starting in 2015.

The Ruling

In a decision that surprised even conservatives, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the injunction which had previously stopped Texas from being able to remove Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood affiliates in the area––based in large part on the Center for Medical Progress videos––can now be lifted.

Initially, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) made the decision to terminate the state’s Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood affiliates across the state. The OIG, according to the Texas Tribune, is “an arm of the state’s health and human services agency charged with rooting out fraud and abuse.”

The ruling reads:

“The agency based this decision largely on undercover video footage of graphic discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel concerning the prospective sale of liver, thymus, and neural tissue from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy. The videos justified terminating the affiliates’ provider agreements, the agency contended, because they indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards.”

Specifically, the OIG became involved and moved to terminate the funding because Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (“PPGC”) runs several health centers in the Houston area and one or more of the videos featured Melissa Farrell, a research director at the PPGC. “The videos justified terminating the affiliates’ provider agreements, the agency contended, because they indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards.”

Instead of admitting guilt, several Planned Parenthood affiliates and Medicaid beneficiaries sought a preliminary injunction against the termination decision. Interestingly, a small portion of the ruling reveals Planned Parenthood affiliates (plaintiffs) in the case received $3.4 million from Texas Medicaid funds, yet “Texas Medicaid only pays for abortions under narrow circumstances—specifically, when a woman’s life is in danger or for victims of rape and incest.” The $3.4 million they receive is a drop in the bucket, or as the ruling says, “a smidgen of the three affiliates’ combined revenues of approximately $57 million in 2013.”

In a statement, Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office fought this case before the ruling, said he was pleased. “Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail.”

Implications Of The Ruling

As positive as this ruling is, the concrete implications of it are still narrow. Because of the ruling, the injunction is vacated but the case is going back for review under a different standard. As Paxton said, there’s hope Planned Parenthood will lose their Medicaid funding. There are also other, broader implications that are still important.

First, the court noted that Planned Parenthood executives had admitted to illegally altering abortion procedures and circumventing the federal partial-birth abortion ban to obtain intact fetuses to sell for greater profit. While this has been a major talking point among conservatives covering the videos, few members of the mainstream media wanted to acknowledge this fact that was literally caught on videotape.

Second, the court was so sure of the accuracy of the videos, they included a still shot of several aborted baby parts in a pan. An arm is easily recognizable. I’m not well versed enough in the world of law to know how many abortion and pro-life briefs exist in the American legal lexicon, but I daresay the existed of aborted baby parts as a color photo––a visual exhibit––in an actual ruling must be rare. Commonplace or not, it signifies a shift in the debate; a willingness to recognize and honor the humanity of the unborn.

Third: It cannot be overlooked that Planned Parenthood received––and unfortunately, still receives––taxpayer subsidies under the umbrella of abortion. With those funds, they were callously aborting babies by the tens of thousands annually, and yet they were also, simultaneously, valuing those aborted fetuses enough to sell them to the highest bidder for research purposes. This is not only illegal, as the ruling implies, but morally disingenuous, to say the least. This is a kind of ghoulish hypocrisy: To cast aside human life yet profit from its scientific, monetary value, demonstrates a special affinity to devalue the least of humanity among us for the sake of an extra buck (or Lamborghini).

This Ruling Exonerates The CMP Videos

One of the most important implication of the ruling is that it solidifies, yet again, the authority of the Center for Medical Progress videos. When the videos were slowly unveiled, Planned Parenthood maintained, with unwavering fervor, the videos were edited, or that the undercover activity was illegal. The mainstream media aided in this effort––from Chris Cuomo to The Nation, organizations claimed, in unison, the videos were fabricated or edited to make Planned Parenthood into heinous ghouls. Yet in a glorious footnote, the ruling indicated that the videos underwent forensic review and were not “deceptively edited.”

The Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos have had a ricochet effect on Planned Parenthood, spawning investigations into several aspects of the abortion industry nationwide since they were released several years ago. First, the House Oversight Committee investigated Planned Parenthood, because of the videos, then the FBI, then states started launching their own investigations and began efforts to withdrew Medicaid funding. Most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services started to review whether or not it should continue to utilize fetal tissue research at the government level. It’s already terminated one contract with a company called Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR), which is under federal investigation for working with Planned Parenthood.

In a statement released after this ruling, the Center for Medical Progress said:

“The video camera doesn’t lie: CMP’s undercover video series caught Planned Parenthood’s top leaders openly admitting to selling baby body parts for profit in violation of federal law. Tonight, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vindicated our citizen journalism work by debunking Planned Parenthood’s smear that the videos were ‘heavily edited’ or ‘doctored.’ The Court ruled that Texas may strip Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer subsidies, finding that Planned Parenthood uses criminal partial-birth abortions to sell baby parts. Now, it is time for the U.S. Department of Justice to do its job and hold Planned Parenthood accountable to the law.”

With a fraction of the resources, the Center for Medical Progress worked toward its goal: Hit Planned Parenthood where it hurts most. It has taken years of reporting, debunking, lawsuits, and more but they have done incredible work exposing Planned Parenthood’s lies which could eventually result in, at the very least, stripping it of its Medicaid funding for its fraudulent lies.

Nicole Russell is a senior contributor to The Federalist. She lives in northern Virginia with her four kids. Follow her on Twitter @russell_nm.

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