The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction forbidding Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds.
The decision is also significant for its harsh criticism of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The case will return to a federal trial court, where Planned Parenthood will have another chance to secure an injunction against Texas.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction forbidding Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds Thursday, while stridently criticizing the abortion provider for its rhetoric and medical practices.
“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,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after Thursday’s ruling.
The case arose after a pro-life group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood violating medical and ethical standards codified in federal law and state regulations. Texas terminated its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood shortly thereafter, citing infractions documented in the videos.
In turn, Planned Parenthood asked a federal court to restore its Medicaid funding. Thursday’s ruling — which related to a jurisdictional issue in that case — is especially striking for its numerous rebukes of Planned Parenthood. Judge Edith Jones, a Ronald Reagan appointee, delivered the opinion.
The most noteworthy reprimand in the decision is a graphic depiction of post-abortion fetal remains taken from a CMP video. A small arm is visible in the picture. Texas cited the manner in which Planned Parenthood disposes of fetal remains as one reason for terminating its Medicaid eligibility.
In another instance, the decision accuses Planned Parenthood of breaking federal law banning partial birth abortions. The ruling highlights a CMP video in which an administrator called Dr. Tram Nguyen said doctors at one facility could evacuate an intact fetus — thereby breaking federal law — provided they sign a form that they did not “intend” to do so. That procedure allows researchers to recover organs like the thymus or the liver.
Later in the opinion, the panel chides Planned Parenthood for failing to address Nguyen’s comments in court filings.
“The plaintiffs’ briefing with regard to the substance of the discussions contained in the videos is curiously silent,” the decision reads.
Planned Parenthood has denied it intentionally alters abortion procedures for impermissible reasons.
The panel also dismissed Planned Parenthood’s claim that the CMP videos were “deceptively edited,” a soundbite that redounded across the press after the tapes first appeared.
“The record reflects that [the Texas Office of Inspector General] had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited,” a footnote in the decision reads. “And [Planned Parenthood] did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”
Finally the panel accused the judiciary of politicking on abortion cases. Ordinarily, providers like Planned Parenthood must challenge Medicaid termination decisions in an administrative forum and state court before seeking a federal court’s intervention. By allowing Planned Parenthood to skip directly to federal court — as the trial court did here — the 5th Circuit said judges are engaging in ideological favoritism.