Texas officials on Thursday made unannounced visits to Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state to demand "thousands of pages" of documents in what the healthcare group and its advocates called a "politically motivated" series of raids.
Agents from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s investigative arm turned up at Planned Parenthood chapters in Houston, Dallas, Brownsville, and San Antonio, to subpoena the clinics for documents including patient information, such as appointment schedules, ultrasound records, and test results; clinical notes and procedure reports; employees' home addresses, phone numbers, and salaries; copies of contracts with outside entities that provide laboratory testing or patient data storage; and any other documents requested at the "discretion" of the inspector general.
A subpoena delivered to the Dallas outpost also included a request for files from clinics in Austin and Waco.
All documents were due within 24 hours, the office said. The subpoenas were issued as part of Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen's "fraud" investigation into Planned Parenthood's billing practices—the latest effort to dismantle the group's Texas chapters after Bowen moved to cut off its Medicaid funding days earlier, which would block healthcare services for low-income women and men.
Bowen's office told the Texas Tribune it could not comment on ongoing investigations. At a news conference on Thursday, Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region chief executive officer Ken Lambrecht said the raids were a "fishing expedition."
Texas and other conservative states have stepped up their targeting of Planned Parenthood affiliates over alleged violations portrayed in a series of recent controversial "sting videos" concerning the group's handling of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has disputed the videos as inaccurate and deceptively edited and consistently denied any wrongdoing, but announced earlier this month it would stop taking reimbursements for fetal tissue donated for scientific research.
Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas officials on Thursday said the sweep was "politically motivated" and demanded unnecessary information.
"Our extremist state leaders are using heavily-edited videos created by militant anti-abortion activists as an excuse to block access to affordable healthcare and score political points," said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director Heather Busby. "The politically motivated attacks on Texans' access to reproductive healthcare are escalating and people are hurting as a result."
Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of the state chapter's political branch, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, added, "Governor Abbott's political grandstanding is on full display this morning."
"Representatives from the Texas Office of Inspector General showed up at Planned Parenthood health centers in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio looking for an excuse to take healthcare away from thousands of women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive care," Gutierrez said. "But what they will see is professional, compassionate and quality healthcare. Despite their efforts to distort the truth, healthcare—no matter what—is what happens at Planned Parenthood."
Healthcare service providers are barred from using federal money for abortions. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department also stipulates that states cannot restrict where Medicaid patients choose to receive care.
Busby continued, "Low-income Texans have already lost their access to preventative healthcare including birth control, extreme state laws have devastated access to abortion by forcing clinics to close, and this past legislative session extremists even went after life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings. Our state leaders need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on this witch hunt and start putting people before politics."