In the war against Planned Parenthood, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have always made their stance well known. In the wake of COVID-19 they are taking that fight even further, encouraging criminal and fraud investigations into a health service provider that is already on the brink in Texas.
In late May, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) authored a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting an investigation into how Planned Parenthood affiliates received loans of $80 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He argued that Planned Parenthood, as an organization that employs more than 500 people, should be barred from the PPP funds meant for small businesses. Cruz and Cornyn dutifully signed on to the letter advocating for an investigation into the alleged criminal activity.
“Based on these statements, it seems clear that Planned Parenthood knew that it was ineligible for the small business loans under the CARES Act long before its affiliates fraudulently self-certified that they were eligible. As you know, fraudulent loan applications can trigger both civil and criminal penalties.”
Cruz and Cornyn are staunch opponents of Planned Parenthood, echoing sentiments from other statewide leaders like Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton. They were co-signers on a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in 2015. (As Attorney General, Abbott sued the federal government over a women’s health program and Planned Parenthood.)
As the COVID-19 cases escalated in March, the governor used the pandemic to ban abortion in the state, citing it was an elective surgery. The case was upheld by a federal appeals court. Planned Parenthood and other providers filed an emergency suit with the Supreme Court. That suit was rescinded when abortions were allowed to resume in late April as the governor loosened the ban on elective medical procedures.
For many Texans, the nearly month-long ban felt like a preview of what could happen in a state dominated by anti-choice lawmakers. Stories have emerged of women traveling to New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada after the ban was enacted. The ban on abortion extended to medication abortion (which already requires a 24-hour waiting period in the state).
Around Texas the language around abortion and choice has gotten even more dangerous, and there are at least seven cities that have declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.” It’s probably not surprising that in an election year, Cruz and Cornyn would go to bat for a Department of Justice investigation into Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is obviously much more than an abortion clinic (and thanks to the Hyde Amendment none of their federal funds go toward that service). At a time when an unprecedented number of Texan women have lost their jobs, they are likely the only health service available to the many furloughed or fired Texans with no company health care.
Planned Parenthood has always been in the crosshairs for many Texas lawmakers. But now its future in Texas is truly precarious. There’s a Supreme Court case June Medical Services v. Gee (nearly identical to a Texas case that was reversed in 2015) that is looming. And, of course, the ultimate wish for any anti-choice legislator is the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
As Cornyn awaits his run-off opponent, it’s clear he’s going to continue to promote his anti-choice record, and to ratchet up the conservative ire against Planned Parenthood. In March and April, Texans got a preview of what a true ban on abortion looks like in the state.
Even though the state cruelly used the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit the anti-choice agenda, it likely also exposed just how many women around the state may find themselves dependent on a health service provider like Planned Parenthood.
Photo: Hourick/Wikimedia Commons