December 21, 2016 / 4:13 PM / 8 months ago

Texas moves to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood

FILE PHOTO: Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin, Texas, U.S. on June 27, 2016.Ilana Panich-Linsman/File Photo

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas plans to block about $3 million in Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood operations in the state, a legal document obtained on Wednesday showed, a move the reproductive healthcare group said could affect nearly 11,000 low-income people.

Planned Parenthood said it would seek court help to block the funding halt, which would cut cancer screenings, birth control, HIV testing and other programs.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in federal funds, largely in reimbursements through Medicaid, which provides health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.

Texas and several other Republican-controlled states have tried to cut the organization's funding after an anti-abortion group released videos last year that it said showed officials from Planned Parenthood negotiating prices for fetal tissues from abortions it performs.

Texas sent a notice to Planned Parenthood in the state on Tuesday to alert it of the funding cut, the document showed, saying the basis of the termination was the videos.

Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing, saying the videos were heavily edited and it does not profit from fetal tissue donation. It has challenged similar defunding efforts in other states, calling them politically motivated.

It added that previous funding cuts in Texas have had devastating effects on healthcare for poor residents and the state rarely fills the void for lost services.

"Texas is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation," Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Action Fund's president, said in a statement. "With this action, the state is doubling down on reckless policies that have been absolutely devastating for women."

Republican President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, and at least 14 states have tried to pass legislation or taken administration action to prevent the organization from receiving federal Title X funding.

The state investigated Planned Parenthood over the videos and a grand jury in January cleared it of any wrongdoing.

The state took no further criminal action against Planned Parenthood after that but has repeated its accusations that the abortion provider may have violated state law.

"Governor Abbott has made clear that Texas will not subsidize an organization that admits a willingness to alter an abortion procedure in order to profit off the harvesting of baby body parts," his office said in a statement on Wednesday.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said politicians in Texas "are once again recycling these false accusations, regardless of how many women they hurt in the process."

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 Lisa Von Ahn and Alan Crosby

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