Though this country has made immense progress in the field of women’s rights, countless right-wing groups are continuing to fight a vicious, underhanded legal battles to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics.
Planned Parenthood took a hard financial hit this week, agreeing to pay the state of Texas $1.4 million to settle allegations of billing fraud in a health program for the impoverished. Leaders of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast are resolute in denying the allegations, and claim that they settled because the alternative was a long and expensive legal battle with the state of Texas, which an embattled organization like Planned Parenthood can't afford.
Sadly, abortion clinics and abortion rights groups are under attack in both red states, like North Carolina, and blue states, like Michigan. These attacks represent more than regional governments trying to bypass the federal law. They suggest that right wing activists are staging a piecemeal fight at the state level, in which they will take any chance they can to shut down or fine clinics.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who's running for state governor, told the press that the state sued after a whistle-blower accused Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of improperly billing Texas for products and services that were either never rendered, not medically necessary, or not covered by Medicaid, the government health program for the poor. According to Abbott, investigators had determined that Planned Parenthood, "falsified material information in patients' medical records" to support fraudulent reimbursement claims, a serious charge.
Planned Parenthood insists that the allegations are without merit, and that the group settled "as a practical matter." Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla noted that the more time the organization spends on litigation, the less time the organization has to focus on the health of women, saying, "Continuing this litigation in the hostile environment for women's health would have ensured a lengthy and costly process that would have distracted our energies and required us to share the private medical information of thousands of women … We are ending this lawsuit in order to devote all of our time and energy to delivering high quality affordable health care."
The Texas settlement came one week after the passage a radical Texas law that will force abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to meet the requirements of outpatient surgery centers. Each clinic will require thousands of dollars in unnecessary upgrades, and have to complete a deluge of bureaucratic paperwork, if it wants to remain open. Meanwhile, Texas' Republican-led legislature is continuing its attempts to defund Planned Parenthood facilities that participate in a state health program for poor women that subsidizes care such as annual exams, cancer screenings, and birth control. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has already announced the closure of three clinics in Texas, one of which performed abortions.
Thanks to the $1.4 million settlement with Planned Parenthood, Texas will remain a focus of the abortion-rights battle. Unfortunately, Texas' ills are just a symptom of a larger, nationwide problem.