Texas judge blocks cutting funds to Planned Parenthood

Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the state can’t cut off funding for reproductive healthcare group Planned Parenthood over secretly recorded videos taken by anti-abortion activists in 2015, which critics said were misleading.

“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 programme,” US District Judge Sam Sparks wrote in an order on Tuesday.

“Yet, rather than a villain plotting to take over the world, the subject of this case is the State of Texas’s efforts to expel a group of healthcare providers from a social health care programme for families and individuals with limited resources,” wrote the judge who was appointed by Republican former President George H.W. Bush.

Planned Parenthood had repeatedly denied that it did anything wrong or illegal. Sparks made the comments in an order granting a preliminary injunction preventing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission from ending Medicaid agreements with the healthcare group, NBC News reported.

Sparks wrote that the commission relied on “unsubstantiated and indeterminate allegations” about a “willingness” to violate ethical standards and that it had produced no evidence of any actual violation.

The commission issued an initial notice of termination of Medicaid contracts following the release of the videos in 2015, which critics said was heavily edited and misleading.

Investigations into the videos by 13 states have concluded without criminal charges, and Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, called Sparks’ ruling “disappointing” and vowed to appeal.

In announcing the judge’s decision on Twitter, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said its “doors [are] still open to low-income Texans who count on us for healthcare”.