Texas wants Planned Parenthood to give back millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements — and pay far more in fines on top of that — in a lawsuit that appears to be the first of its kind brought by a state against the largest abortion provider in the U.S.
Planned Parenthood acknowledged in a statement it could end up paying $1.8 billion if U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk rules in favor of the lawsuit.
Texas brought the lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act, which allows fines for every alleged improper payment.
It was announced last year by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is now temporarily suspended from office pending the outcome of his impeachment trial next month over accusations of bribery and abuse of office.
Last year, Paxton said it was “unthinkable that Planned Parenthood would continue to take advantage of funding knowing they were not entitled to keep it.”
Planned Parenthood has called the claims “meritless.”
Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, did not immediately rule following a hearing Tuesday in the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo. He’s the same federal judge who put access to the abortion pill mifepristone in limbo earlier this year.
The case now before him in America’s biggest red state does not specifically surround abortion, which has been banned in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. But Planned Parenthood argues the attempt to recoup at least $17 million in Medicaid payments for health services, including cancer screenings, is a new effort to weaken the organization after years of Republican-led laws that stripped funding and imposed restrictions on how its clinics operate.
Kacsmaryk did not say when he will hand down a ruling in the case.
At issue is money Planned Parenthood received before Texas removed the organization from the state’s Medicaid program in 2021. Texas had begun trying to oust Planned Parenthood four years earlier and is seeking repayment for services billed during that time.
“This baseless case is an active effort to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In addition to the lawsuit, Texas removed the abortion provider from all state health program funding. The organization no longer gets state money for “cancer screenings, contraception, HIV prevention, and sex education,” according to The Texas Tribune.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has claimed the Texas heartbeat law outlawing abortion has forced Texans to travel to other states to get abortions.
“Planned Parenthood and other supporters of legal abortion have worked overtime to make the case that the Texas heartbeat law is not protecting unborn children, but simply causing Texas women to obtain abortions in other states,” Michael New, a statistician, and scholar with the Lozier Institute, which works with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told Axios.
New called Planned Parenthood’s data “unpersuasive” and added that S.B. 8 (the heartbeat law) “has enjoyed success protecting preborn children in the Lone Star State.”
Planned Parenthood has roughly three dozen clinics in Texas. One has closed since the Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed Texas to restrict abortion.