Aug 17, 2023 - News

Judge hears arguments in Texas' lawsuit against Planned Parenthood

A Planned Parenthood sign at their Dallas location.

A Planned Parenthood center in Dallas. Photo: Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge will decide whether Planned Parenthood should repay Texas millions of dollars the organization received through Medicaid after hearing arguments on the case this week.

Driving the news: Texas' suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton and an anonymous whistle-blower filed the lawsuit last year under the federal False Claims Act, claiming Planned Parenthood defrauded the state's Medicaid program of at least $10 million.

  • The nonprofit says the claims are "meritless."

Why it matters: Planned Parenthood, which has roughly three dozen health clinics in Texas, claims the state's ongoing litigation is an attempt to shut down its centers.

The intrigue: U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Trump and sought to block the abortion pill mifepristone, is presiding over the case.

  • He heard arguments from both parties Tuesday in Amarillo. He has yet to rule in the case.

State of play: Planned Parenthood stopped providing abortions in Texas last year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but it has continued offering preventive services such as cancer screenings, birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Catch up fast: In 2017, Texas tried terminating Planned Parenthood's status as a state-approved Medicaid provider. That set off a series of court battles until 2021, when Texas was allowed to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program

  • The state's 2022 lawsuit says Planned Parenthood needs to pay back the reimbursements it received from Medicaid while state and federal action was pending between 2017 and 2021.
  • Planned Parenthood recently said it could end up paying $1.8 billion if Kacsmaryk rules in Texas' favor.

Between the lines: Kacsmaryk grew up in North Texas and once taught at SMU. His Amarillo court has become a go-to place for conservative groups seeking to challenge a wide range of policies.

  • Kacsmaryk has delivered several key decisions for the right, including limiting protections for transgender Americans and pausing President Biden's attempt to end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program.

What they're saying: "It is unthinkable that Planned Parenthood would continue to take advantage of funding knowing they were not entitled to keep it," Paxton said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed.

  • The other side: "Texas knew the affiliates were providing the services, reimbursed them for the services, and never asked the affiliates for repayment until filing this lawsuit years later," Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

Meanwhile: A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that mifepristone, the abortion pill that was challenged in Kacsmaryk's court, can continue to be sold but with restrictions, per NBC News.

Of note: Paxton was suspended as attorney general pending a Senate impeachment trial next month. The Texas AG's office did not respond to Axios' request on Wednesday for comment on the Planned Parenthood lawsuit.


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