Abortion

Judge blocks Texas from cutting funds for Planned Parenthood

A federal judge on Thursday blocked Texas from ousting Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program over secretly recorded videos taken by anti-abortion activists in 2015.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks adds Texas to the list of Republican-controlled states that have been thwarted in efforts to cut off Medicaid dollars to the nation's largest abortion provider.

Sparks postponed Planned Parenthood's ouster until Feb. 21, but it is expected he will issue a ruling before then. Planned Parenthood would have lost the funding on Saturday had Sparks not intervened.

Other federal courts have similarly stopped Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas, which all cited heavily edited videos that claimed to show Planned Parenthood officials profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing, and investigations in 13 states didn't result in criminal charges.

Planned Parenthood says it provides non-abortion services to about 11,000 low-income women in Texas each year through Medicaid. No public funding in Texas is used for abortion, while Medicaid reimbursements cover services that include well-women exams, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.

Sparks is the same judge who put on hold new Texas rules requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains.

He began the three-day hearing on Planned Parenthood by scolding attorneys for lingering on the videos, which he said amounted to "baloney" in regards to the issue at stake.

Sparks told attorneys he instead wanted to know about the type of Medicaid services Planned Parenthood provides and how many clinics would be impacted.

Texas has been aggressive in its efforts to weaken Planned Parenthood, including kicking the organization out of the state women's health program in 2013.