Ben Johnson

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Texas Planned Parenthood must reimburse $1.4 million in Medicaid fraud, calls charges ‘baseless’

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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AUSTIN, TX, July 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Planned Parenthood must reimburse the State of Texas Medicaid program $1.4 million in erroneous and fraudulent billing, under the terms of a settlement announced today. That includes funds that, according to the whistleblower who exposed the chapter, were used to finance abortion-related services.

A thorough investigation found that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) “improperly billed the Texas Medicaid program for products and services that were never actually rendered, not medically necessary, and were not covered by the Medicaid program – and were therefore not eligible for reimbursement,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today.

“For example, state investigators determined that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast falsified material information in patients’ medical records in order to support fraudulent reimbursement claims to the Medicaid program,” he said.

The announcement comes after Karen Reynolds, a decade-long employee at PPGC, filed a lawsuit stating that the Houston-based chapter of Planned Parenthood gave each of its 12 offices in Texas and Louisiana regular revenue goals and instructed them to bilk the state through deceptive billing.

Reynolds – who worked as a “health care assistant” at Planned Parenthood in Lufkin, Texas, 1999-2009 – stated that, in addition to seeking reimbursement for services not rendered, or that weren't medically necessary, they also charged for abortion-related services. 

According to Reynolds, when post-abortive women came in for a follow-up visit, PPGC told its employees to “ask if she needs any other services such as birth control," thus allowing them to make it appear as if the purpose of the visit was for a reason other than abortion-related care. "If she is interested, screen for” the state Women's Health Program or Medicaid, they instructed. “If the client is getting on birth control make this the focus of the visit and put a note in the chief complaints that the client had a surgical or medical abortion 'x' weeks ago.”

Every post-abortive woman was given a bag of contraceptives, so the offices could put in a request for reimbursement in the form of state family planning funds.

Pro-life activists have long alleged that Planned Parenthood uses public funds to underwrite its abortion business, in violation of the Hyde Amendment.

After the news of the settlement broke today, PPGC dismissed the charges as “baseless” and said that it chose to end “this case as a practical matter.”

“Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is proud of the high quality health care we provide, and more than 50,000 Texans rely on us every year for essential, high quality prevention services,” the group said in a press release. “A lengthy and costly process that would have distracted our energies and required us to share the private medical information of thousands of women.”

The abortion giant called the state of Texas a “hostile environment for women’s health.”

While many pro-life activists welcomed the news that the attorney general's investigation had implicated Planned Parenthood, former PPGC manager Abby Johnson, who has her own lawsuit pending against the affiliate alleging fraud, said that ultimately the settlement will do little harm to the abortion giant.

“My former affiliate has an endowment of $20 million dollars just sitting in an account. This settlement is simply a slap on the wrist,” she wrote. “This is NO victory.”

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According to a a 23-page report produced by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in 2012, Planned Parenthood has committed between $88 and $99 in fraud and abuse.

Steven Aden, ADF senior counsel, told LifeSiteNews.com that only seven of the nation’s 79 Planned Parenthood affiliates had been officially investigated at the time, as far as he knew. However, 38 HHS Office of Inspector General audits between 1995 and 2009 had uncovered between $88-99 million “in waste, abuse, and potential waste, and fraud,” Aden said.

Governor Rick Perry founded the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) to deny state family planning funds to Planned Parenthood, as well as other abortion providers.

Perry had to form TWHP as an entirely state-funded female health alternative after President Obama pulled federal funding – which accounted for 90 percent of the previous, $40 million Women's Health Program – because Texas had decided to withhold state funds from abortion providers.

However, President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did an end-run around the statue, giving $13 million in federal Title X money to abortion providers instead of funding the state. The HHS directly funded the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas (WHFPT), a coalition of women’s health care offices that includes Planned Parenthood.

Under the terms of the fraud settlement, Planned Parenthood's settlement will be divided between the state of Texas, the federal Medicaid program, and the whistleblower who exposed the fraud – in this case, Karen Reynolds.

For his part, Abbott is seeking the Republican nomination for governor to replace Rick Perry, who is retiring in 2014. National pro-life leaders continue to lobby Abbott to file charges against – or at least investigate – Houston late-term abortionist Douglas Karpen.

The case is but one of several alleging that Planned Parenthood – which received 45.2 percent of its $1.2 billion annual budget from taxpayers last year – is guilty of unethical practices.

Johnson said the case had nothing to do with her own lawsuit, which she promised will go forward.

“I have absolutely no intention of settling with my former affiliate,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “Second, if I did settle, I would never settle for an amount this pathetic.”

“I am out to close down the abortion business...not give them a reprimand,” she wrote.

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Louisiana judge orders state to recognize gay ‘marriage’

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By Kirsten Anderson

A Louisiana judge on Monday ordered state officials to recognize the out-of-state “marriage” of a lesbian couple and allow one of the women to legally adopt her partner’s child.

Angie Costanza and Christy Brewer were “married” in 2008 in California, but Louisiana’s marriage protection amendment, passed by 78 percent of voters in 2004, prevented the state from recognizing the couple’s union.  The pair sued in 2013 to overturn the law, in part because Costanza wanted to be listed as a parent on Brewer’s son’s birth certificate. 

Initially, Judge Edward Broussard dismissed the case without a hearing, but the couple appealed.  On Monday, Judge Edward Rubin took their side, ruling that Louisiana’s marriage protection law is unconstitutional in three ways:  According to Rubin, the ban on same-sex “marriage” violates the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.

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Rubin’s decision comes just weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman declared Louisiana’s marriage protection law constitutional – the first federal judge to decide in favor of a same-sex “marriage” ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year. “There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage,” Feldman wrote in his decision. 

However, because this case is being tried in the state courts, Rubin’s decision will take precedence over Feldman’s, pending appeal.

The state plans to appeal Rubin’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the federal case is also moving forward.  Ultimately, it is expected that the question of whether statewide bans on same-sex “marriage” are constitutional will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime in 2015. 

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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Rick Perry: Joan Rivers’ death shows Texas is right to require abortionists to have admitting privileges

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By Kirsten Anderson

In the wake of the high-profile death of comedienne Joan Rivers due to complications from throat surgery at an outpatient clinic in New York City, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pointed to the tragedy as an example showing the necessity for his state’s one-year-old law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.

"It was interesting that when Joan Rivers -- and the procedure that she had done, where she died -- that was a clinic,” Perry said at a Texas Tribune event on Sunday. “It's a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.”

Many observers have criticized the governor’s remarks, noting that Rivers’ surgery was performed in a fully licensed ambulatory surgical center by a doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as is the current standard for abortion facilities in Texas, but died anyway.  However, the painstaking investigation into what may have gone wrong at the New York City clinic reveals that while all surgery carries risks, ambulatory surgical centers are required to take every precaution to ensure the safety of their patients, in contrast to more loosely regulated abortion clinics, where injuries and deaths are rampant, and often covered up.

While 32 separate medical associations have signed a joint agreement stating that anyone “performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital,” abortion businesses have fought such regulations tooth and nail, arguing that requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges is too burdensome and will cause clinics to close their doors.  

Abortionists have also opposed tougher safety restrictions forcing them to adhere to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers, arguing that upgrading their substandard facilities to meet hospital-grade requirements is costly and unnecessary.  But proponents of such regulations point out that the tiny parking lots, narrow hallways, and lack of elevators common to most abortion facilities are serious impediments to getting lifesaving help to women in case of emergencies, delaying paramedics who can’t park their ambulances or maneuver gurneys through such buildings.  In addition, licensed ambulatory surgical centers must have and properly maintain state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment, and train employees in their use – something abortion clinics have repeatedly been cited for failing to do.

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