On Tuesday, far right Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will begin hearing arguments in a case brought by conservative plaintiffs that could shut down Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas and across the country.
Texas and an anonymous plaintiff affiliated with extremist anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood over $17 million in Medicaid payments that the group collected over several years as the state attempted to kick Planned Parenthood off its Medicaid program.
The state is suing to recoup the payments – which Planned Parenthood received after a judge granted an injunction that allowed the group to continue receiving them – as well as fees for every claim that the plaintiffs argue was made falsely, the accrued interest, and attorney fees.
In all, the state is suing for a whopping $1.8 billion — enough to bankrupt the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas several times over, according to The Texas Tribune. This is almost as much as Planned Parenthood, its political arm, and its affiliates made in revenue in the last fiscal year overall, with $1.9 billion in revenue, and is more than the organization had in expenses all year.
“The stakes of this baseless case could not be higher — this is an active effort to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Ms. Magazine earlier this month. “Affordable, high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare is already under threat, and these politically-motivated allegations could upend care for millions of patients in Texas and potentially across the country.”
The case, Doe v. Planned Parenthood, is the latest in Texas’s longtime quest to shut down Planned Parenthood across the state by removing its funding — even though Planned Parenthood, like other providers across the state, no longer provides abortions due to Texas’s abortion ban.
Over a decade ago, Texas lawmakers removed Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program, a Medicaid program that helps low-income women access contraception. This had devastating effects on contraception access.
When courts said that Texas wasn’t allowed to remove Planned Parenthood from the program, the state rallied behind a bogus and heavily doctored video by Center for Medical Progress activists purporting to expose Planned Parenthood for selling fetal tissue — claims that were debunked time and again as a baseless attack against the organization and abortion rights, but that became a major sticking point for anti-abortion activists nonetheless. (David Daleiden and other Center for Medical Progress activists were later found guilty of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act charges in relation to its attacks on Planned Parenthood.)
Riding off the controversy created by the video, the state filed more lawsuits in its attempts to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid. The state was eventually successful in 2021, when the far right U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas is allowed to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program.
Doe v. Planned Parenthood case was filed in Amarillo, Texas, in order to be heard by Kacsmaryk, a Donald Trump-appointed district judge with a conservative Christian background who ruled earlier this year to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone, essentially banning the pill nationwide.
Kacsmaryk is notorious for his brash approach and extreme right wing lean — so much so that activists specifically file cases in his district in order to have their cases heard by him — and the mifepristone ruling was no exception. Legal experts pointed out that the mifepristone ruling read more like an anti-abortion screed than a legitimate legal opinion, with a mountain of errors and whole sections that appear to be just paraphrases of the talking points of the activists who brought the case.
The state’s case against Planned Parenthood is similarly without merit, as some writers and experts have said.
“No sensible judge would hold that a litigant can be bankrupted because it acted consistently with a federal court order while that order was in effect,” wrote Vox writer Ian Millhiser on Doe in May. “But this case is being heard by Matthew Kacsmaryk, who’s spent his brief time on the bench acting as a rubber stamp for virtually any conservative litigant who comes to him seeking a court order.”
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