Appeals Court Overturns Planned Parenthood Defunding Injunction Against Texas
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned an injunction against the State of Texas for cutting Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program this week. The State of Texas OIG (Office of Inspector General) first attempted to make these cuts after video evidence surfaced of illegal fetal research practices within Planned Parenthood. A lower court concluded that the videos were not sufficient evidence, and blocked the cuts.
“There is no question that the OIG (Office of Inspector General) here made factual findings after viewing the videos and related evidence,” wrote Judge Edith Jones for the Fifth Circuit Court.“The OIG further concluded, based on the videos, that the provider plaintiffs at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” she continued.
Judge Jones findings also stated, “[Planned Parenthood’s] briefing with regard to the substance of the discussions contained in the videos (as opposed to their trial witnesses’ post hoc justifications) is curiously silent.” And that, “the record reflects that OIG had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited. And the plaintiffs (Planned Parenthood) did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”
This case began in 2015 when video evidence was released by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, and was coupled with allegations of unlawful billing practices. These findings lead to a letter notice to terminate Medicaid support for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
In turn PPGC sued The Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In 2016 the Commission moved forward with a 30 day letter notice of termination of service, which again lead to an injunction being filed by PPGC.
In February of 2017 Judge Sam Sparks ruled in favor of PPGC finding, “After reviewing the evidence currently in the record, the court finds the inspector general, and thus [the Texas Health and Human Services Commission], likely acted to disenroll qualified health care providers from Medicaid without cause,” further he wrote. “Such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider.”
Sparks also stated that, “A secretly recorded video, fake names, a grand jury indictment, congressional investigations—these are the building blocks of a best-selling novel rather than a case concerning the interplay of federal and state authority through the Medicaid program.”
The Fifth Circuit however, dismissed the injunction, ruling that Judge Sparks had dismissed the OIG’s findings too quickly.
“In sum,” Jones wrote, “the district court erred by giving no deference to OIG’s factual findings and by accepting evidence beyond the agency record.”
“The district court stated, inaccurately,” continues Jones, “that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited.”
“The district court also noted that neither the inspector general nor the medical director had expert knowledge concerning abortion procedures. And the court discounted Ms. Farrell’s videotaped statements because she claimed on the witness stand that she really had no personal knowledge of the medical aspects of abortion procedures and had never even been in the room when an abortion was performed.”
Jones dismissed this saying that the inspector generals (a surgeon) lack of specific abortion procedure knowledge, “does not mean that he deserves no deference when deciding whether a provider has failed to meet the medical and ethical standards the state requires.” Declaring, “It is even odder to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”
The case has been sent back to Judge Sam Sparks to be re-reviewed.