U.S. judge delays Texas
plan to cut Planned Parenthood funding
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[January 20, 2017]
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. judge
issued a temporary restraining on Thursday halting Texas' plan to cut
Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood to give him more time to
consider thousands of pages of documents filed in the politically
charged case, court records showed.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who has been hearing testimony in a
lawsuit over the plan this week, put a freeze on the funding cut
until Feb. 21, according to online court filings. The cut was to
take effect Jan. 21.
Sparks said in issuing the order the court needed time to consider
"the mountain of evidence" in the case.
No formal estimate was given for amount of money involved, but in
fiscal 2015, Planned Parenthood affiliates across Texas received
about $4.2 million in Medicaid funding, the state's Health and Human
Services Commission said.
Texas and several other Republican-controlled states have pushed to
cut the organization's funding since an anti-abortion group released
videos in 2015 it said showed Planned Parenthood officials
negotiating prices for fetal tissue collected from abortions.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Friday,
has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, which draws the ire of
many Republicans because it provides abortions.
Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing over the videos, which
it said were heavily edited and misleading.
The group has said the threatened funding cut, by terminating
Planned Parenthood's enrollment in the state-funded healthcare
system for the poor, could affect nearly 11,000 patients across
Texas as they try to access services such as HIV and cancer
None of the money that the group received went for abortions,
plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Texas and the Medicaid defunding
plan have said.
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A Texas health official told the court that other medical facilities
could provide similar services to Medicaid patients as Planned
Sparks said in court he did not see the videos as central to the
proceedings, which opened Tuesday. He called on the state to present
evidence to back up its allegations that Planned Parenthood violated
Texas investigated Planned Parenthood over the videos, and a grand
jury a year ago cleared it of any wrongdoing. The grand jury
indicted two people who made the videos for document fraud, but the
charges were later dismissed.
Planned Parenthood has 34 health centers in Texas, serving more than
120,000 patients, 11,000 of whom are Medicaid patients, it said.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alan
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