On Tuesday, a hearing was set before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, regarding the lawsuit where the state of Texas is suing Planned Parenthood under the False Claims Act.
Texas wants Planned Parenthood to pay the state back millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements, in addition to that pay fines for providing health services. The lawsuit is trying to recoup at least $17 million in Medicaid payments for health services, including cancer screenings.
This is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit brought by a state against the largest abortion provider in the U.S. The case does not involve abortion which has been banned in Texas since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year by the U.S Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood argues that the lawsuit is an attempt to bankrupt the organization after years of Republican-led laws stripping funding and imposing restrictions on how clinics can operate.
The issue at hand surrounds the money Planned Parenthood received for health services before it was removed from Texas’s Medicaid program in 2021. At this point, Texas had already been trying to shut down the organization for four years and is pursuing 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, according to the Associated Press.
The federal False Claims Act, under which the lawsuit is filed, allows fines for every alleged improper payment. It could result in a judgment in excess of $1 billion, Planned Parenthood said.
How Kacsmaryk will rule remains unclear.
Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced the lawsuit last year.
While a spokesman for the office did not return a message seeking comment Monday, according to the AP. Last year, Paxton said, “unthinkable that Planned Parenthood would continue to take advantage of funding knowing they were not entitled to keep it.”
A former federal prosecutor who specialized in health care fraud, Jacob Elberg, said that Texas’ argument is weak, according to the AP.
The False Claims Act is the government’s most powerful tool against health fraud, he said.
How Planned Parenthood could knowingly file false claims at a time when it was in court fighting to stay in the program and Texas was paying reimbursements is “hard to understand” Elberg said according to the AP.
“This just isn’t what the False Claims Act is supposed to be about,” said Elberg, faculty director at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law, according to the AP.
In Texas, Planned Parenthood has approximately three dozen health clinics in Texas. Since the Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed Texas to ban abortion, one clinic closed its doors.