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Federal judge blocks Texas from cutting off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood

Antiabortion activists demonstrate in Austin, Texas, in 2015.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Texas can’t cut off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood over secretly recorded videos taken by antiabortion activists in 2015 that launched Republican efforts across the U.S. to defund the women’s health services provider.

An injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin comes after he delayed making decision in January and essentially bought Planned Parenthood an extra month in the state’s Medicaid program.

Texas is now at least the sixth state where federal courts have kept Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, eligible for Medicaid reimbursements for nonabortion services. However, a bigger question remains over whether President Trump will federally defund the organization.

Sparks’ decision preserves Planned Parenthood’s cancer screenings, birth control access and other health services it provides for nearly 11,000 low-income women. Texas originally intended to boot Planned Parenthood in January, but Sparks told the state to wait pending his ruling.

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Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have had similar efforts blocked.

As in those states, Texas health officials accused Planned Parenthood officials of making misrepresentations to investigators after the release of secretly recorded and heavily edited videos by an antiabortion group last year. Investigations by 13 states into those videos have concluded without criminal charges, and Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing.

A Houston grand jury indicted two activists behind the videos over how they covertly gained access inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, but a judge later dismissed the charges.

Planned Parenthood serves only a fraction of the 4.3 million people enrolled in Medicaid in Texas.

Antiabortion activists emboldened by a new Trump administration are looking for the federal government to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. That would cut nearly $400 million in Medicaid money to the group and result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to healtgcare, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In one of his first acts as president, Trump last month banned U.S. funding to international groups that perform abortions or even provide information about abortions. Vice President Mike Pence strongly opposes abortion, citing his Roman Catholic beliefs, and the newly confirmed health secretary, Tom Price, as a congressman supported cutting off taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood.

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