October 13, 2017

Cortez Masto, Senate Democrats File Amicus Brief in Support of Planned Parenthood

Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who led a group of 23 Senate Democrats in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventive Health Services, Inc. et al v. Charles Smith et al.

In 2016, Texas revoked Planned Parenthood’s status as a qualified medical provider for Texans on Medicaid. While the move was blocked by a federal judge, the state appealed the injunction and their arguments will soon be heard by the 5th Circuit Court. If the decision is reversed, Texas could be allowed to once again discriminate against Planned Parenthood and its patients, and threaten one of the only affordable providers of family planning, women’s healthcare, and cancer screenings in Texas. 

“Congress intended to offer Medicaid patients their choice of medically qualified health care providers—particularly for family planning services,” wrote Senate Democrats in their brief. “The statute explicitly prevents a state from interfering with a Medicaid patient’s selection of provider, as long as the provider is ‘qualified to perform the service or services required.’”   

In their amicus brief, Senate Democrats called on the court to stop Texas leaders from imposing their ideological preferences on patients and interfering with a Medicaid patient’s selection of provider. 

“In violation of that unambiguous directive, Texas terminated the Medicaid provider agreements of three Planned Parenthood organizations for reasons unrelated to its medical or professional qualifications. Texas thereby threatened to withhold from low-income patients one of their highest quality family planning options (and sometimes their only such option),” continued Senate Democrats. “Its action contravenes Congress’s intent to increase the availability of quality family planning options and provide patients with meaningful choices.”

Joining Senators Cortez Masto, Murray and Wyden in filling today’s brief are Senators: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Read the full text of the amicus brief HERE.

More Background on Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. et al v. Charles Smith et al.: 

On December 20, 2016, after over a year of repeated attempts, Texas health officials from Texas Health and Human Services announced they would be blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding, citing heavily edited videos as a violation of medical and ethical standards. Planned Parenthood immediately sought an injunction. In February 2017, a federal judge blocked Texas from cutting off funding, saying there was no credible evidence to support its claims. Texas has appealed this decision.