Planned Parenthood Director Turned Pro-Life Superstar Is Suing PP For Alleged Medicaid Fraud
As long as we're on the general theme of "unpleasant events that are somehow related to the Medicaid Women's Health Program," let's throw this one in there too: Abby Johnson, who was until a couple of years ago the director of a clinic that was part of Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast, is now suing her former employer, alleging that the group billed Medicaid for fraudulent WHP reimbursements. She actually filed suit in June 2010, but the lawsuit was unsealed only last week after both the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Texas declined to intervene in the case.
Johnson is the author of a book called Unplanned, in which she claims that she gave up her position as the director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan after witnessing an abortion. Or, as her official bio reads:
She watched in horror as a 13 week baby fought, and ultimately lost, its life at the hand of the abortionist. At that moment, the full realization of what abortion was and what she had dedicated her life to washed over Abby and a dramatic transformation took place.
Johnson left Planned Parenthood and became a volunteer for a local anti-abortion group; her bio says she's now a chief research strategist for Live Action Films and a senior policy adviser for Americans United for Life. She's now claiming that in her time at Planned Parenthood, she was made to falsify patient records to make it seem as though they received family planning services, even when they did not, in order to qualify for Medicaid reimbursement through the WHP, as well as billing for non-eligible lab tests and lab tests that weren't even performed.
The suit seems to read that the number of false claims numbered around 12,316, with a total of $1,564,500 in misbegotten funds. But the release from Johnson's lawyers, as well as several anti-abortion media outlets (and Jezebel, who picked up the story) have stated that the number of false claims was 87,000, with a resultant $5.7 million in reimbursement. That's actually the total number of WHP claims for 2007-2009; in the text of the suit, it doesn't seem as though Johnson is alleging that every single claim filed by Planned Parenthood was false.
"By reason of Planned Parenthood's false records, statements, claims and omissions," the lawsuit reads, "the United States government has been damaged in the amount of many thousands of dollars in Medicaid funds."
But both Texas and the feds don't seem to agree that they've been damaged. Johnson's lawsuit was allowed to be unsealed after the DOJ and the state both declined to become plaintiffs (although they still reserve the right to get involved in the case at any time, and Johnson will need written permission from both entities in the unlikely event that she drops the case.)
Johnson's lawyer is part of Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing Christian attorneys' alliance that seem to deal in a heady mixture of anti-gay and anti-abortion cases. Elsewhere in Texas, they're defending Tom Brown Ministries, an anti-gay church that's currently embroiled in a nasty recall fight with El Paso Mayor John Cook over his extending domestic partner benefits to city employees. (The church was also recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.) ADF has also spoken out in favor of Proposition 8, California's controversial law banning gay marriage, and are engaged in another lawsuit with the Obama administration over what ADF calls the administration's illegal funding of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Attacks on the financial integrity of Planned Parenthood are an increasingly large part of national anti-abortion strategy; witness Congressman Cliff Stearns current "investigation" of the group's finances (which the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity cited as its reason for trying to pull breast cancer screening funding from PP). Americans United For Life, for which Johnson is a senior policy adviser, were the ones who first issued the report entitled "The Case For Investigating Planned Parenthood," which seems to be where Stearns got the general idea (and the specifics) for his own investigation. Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued a statement rebutting each of the claims in the AUL report.
But Medicaid fraud wasn't part of Johnson's narrative until relatively recently. She even thanks her former coworkers in the acknowledgments in her book, saying, in part:
So many of you helped shape who I am today. I appreciate all of you and treasure the many wonderful memories we shared together. I pray that one day I will be able to reconnect with some of you. You all mean so much to me and are still a huge part of my life and my heart. I hope that one day we will be standing together again, but this time on this side of the "fence."
Somehow, that seems unlikely. PPGC spokesperson Rochelle Tafolla didn't return our calls, but previously told Jezebel the claims are "absolutely false."