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Sunday, December 17, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Texas plans to block about $3 million in Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood operations in the state, according to a legal document obtained on Wednesday, 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 final termination 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 that it does not profit from fetal tissue donation. It has challenged similar defunding efforts in other states, calling them politically motivated.

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.

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

The Texas governor’s office was not immediately available for comment. The state investigated Planned Parenthood over the videos. A grand jury in January cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing and indicted the anti-abortion activists who made the videos for tampering with government records.

About a year ago, the Texas health department cut funding to a Houston Planned Parenthood affiliate for a nearly three-decade-old HIV prevention program. The contract was federally funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but managed by the state.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

IMAGE: Protesters gather outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California, August 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake