Planned Parenthood just lost big in court — and the Washington Post said the ruling means the abortion provider is a "step closer to getting defunded."
Nearly two years ago, District Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction against Texas, preventing the state from defunding Planned Parenthood in the wake of headline-grabbing undercover video that showed representatives of the abortion giant discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
But on Thursday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Sparks used the incorrect standard of review, and the three-judge panel vacated his 2017 preliminary injunction and kicked the case back to the district court in Austin, the Post reported.
A crucial caveat is that the 5th Circuit ordered that the state's decision to defund Planned Parenthood "may only be overturned if it fails to satisfy 'minimum standards of rationality,'" the Associated Press reported.
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest vigil sponsored by The Christian Defense Coalition and Priests for Life outside of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Carol Whitehill Moses Center on January 17, 2019.Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Video not so shady after all, appeals court says
The 5th Circuit also criticized Sparks for questioning the veracity of the undercover video from pro-life group Center for Medical Progress. In fact, it noted on page 10 of its decision that the "district court stated, inaccurately, that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited."
And in a footnote attached to that quote, the 5th Circuit said "the record reflects that [The Office of Inspector General] had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited. And the plaintiffs did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage."
The footnote text added that "the district court also suggested that there was no evidence that any of [Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast]'s research was federally funded, so the regulations relied on by OIG might be inapplicable. But the record actually establishes that the [University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston] study was funded by the National Institute of Health."
Seth Chandler, a law professor at the University of Houston, told the Post that the 5th Circuit's ruling is a big problem for Planned Parenthood — as Sparks now would have to determine, if he ruled against Texas once more, that the state was "arbitrary and capricious" in deciding to defund the abortion provider.
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"I think it's going to be quite difficult for Planned Parenthood to prevail," Chandler added to the paper. "The standard the 5th Circuit has set down is one that, given the evidence and the history in this case, and a clear signal from the 5th Circuit in this case, Planned Parenthood is going to be hard-pressed to meet. The $3.4 million Planned Parenthood receives from Texas pursuant to the Medicaid program is very likely going to go away."
More from the Post:
Even if Sparks again rules for Planned Parenthood, Chandler said it's clear from [Judge Edith H.] Jones' ruling that the 5th Circuit isn't inclined to do any favors for the health-care provider. Jones, in particular, has openly criticized the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. In this ruling, she included a graphic photo of bloody fetal tissue that came from the video footage, apparently for dramatic effect, Chandler said.
"There are some signs of hostility to abortion in that opinion," he added to the paper, "and the 5th Circuit has pretty strongly hinted how it's going to come out."
Planned Parenthood hasn't yet commented on the 5th Circuit's ruling, the Post reported.
What did Texas' conservative attorney general have to say about the 5th Circuit's decision?
"Planned Parenthood's reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a 'qualified' provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release late Thursday, the AP added.
(H/T: Hot Air)