The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court has overturned an appeals judge’s decision allowing Texas to ban the nation’s biggest abortion business from the state’s Women’s Health Program. The panel ruled the law Texas approved last year to prohibit abortion facilities from taking part in the program to protect taxpayers from funding abortion facilities is unconstitutional.
Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry Smith agreed Friday to overturn the stay he recently issued allowing the state to keep the funding ban in place.
Texas officials are likely to appeal the decision to the full appeals court and have already said they will be forced to shut down the program if Planned Parenthood wins its lawsuit to force the state to fund the abortion company.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Texas contending that the new law prohibiting it from participating in the Women’s Health Program is unconstitutional discrimination. The lawsuit asked the court for an injunction to stop enforcement of the rules preventing Planned Parenthood from getting taxpayer funding via the program , saying the rules violate their rights by putting an “unconstitutional condition on their participation” in the Women’s Health Program.
The lawsuit also alleges the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is enforcing the rule, “overstepped its authority in adopting a rule that conflicts with the purpose of the laws that created the program.”
Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel initially ruled in favor of nine Planned Parenthood affiliates — giving them a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the law and requiring the state to continue funding the abortion business until the lawsuit is fully adjudicated.
However, state officials quickly appealed the ruling — with Attorney General Greg Abbott filing an emergency motion for stay in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Jerry E. Smith granted the stay “pending further order of this court” and requested a response from the abortion business by the close of business today.
Stephanie Goodman of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission told the Houston Chronicle, “This ruling allows the state to fully enforce state law today and exclude abortion providers from the Women’s Health Program. Women who need help finding a new WHP provider can call 1-800-335-8957.”
When the stay was announced, pro-life groups were delighted.
Elizabeth Graham, the head of Texas Right to Life, talked with LifeNews about the decision.
“Though the preliminary injunction may seem to be a victory for the abortion giant, Governor Perry and Texas Attorney General Abbott have consistently held that Texas will not continue the WHP if taxpayers are forced to subsidize the abortion industry,” she said. “Planned Parenthood is now playing politics with women’s health by risking the whole program by its advocacy of abortion. Attorney General Abbott is fully prepared to defend the intent of the Legislature by allowing participation in the WHP to providers and agencies that provide a full spectrum of health care services and that are not affiliated with abortion.”
Graham added: “Texas Right to Life very carefully oversaw the WHP renewal legislation, ensuring that low income women could find services at agencies that do not provide abortion. Planned Parenthood’s claims in the lawsuit about discrimination and staff cuts if excluded from the WHP are absurd; if Planned Parenthood would stop committing abortion, they would be eligible for several public revenue streams. We have full confidence in Attorney General Abbott to protect the taxpayers of Texas from directly and indirectly funding America’s largest abortion chain.”
Joe Pojman, Ph.D., executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, also responded: “Planned Parenthood runs the largest chain of abortion facilities in our state, and they mix the Women’s Health Program and abortions under the same roof at many of those abortion facilities.”
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“For example that is the case in Bryan, Dallas, Houston, and Waco. Governor Perry and the legislature have every right to prevent Planned Parenthood from promoting abortion as a method of family planning with tax dollars. We believe that today’s setback will be temporary and that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will recognize the constitutionality of Texas law,” he said. “Of the some 2,500 Women’s Health Program Providers, 98% have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood and abortion. Planned Parenthood, which has no mammogram machines, provides shabby care for low-income women. Planned Parenthood is unable or unwilling to offer comprehensive primary and preventative care, which low-income women deserve. A woman will not see a doctor at Planned Parenthood unless she is there for an abortion. The state ordered Planned Parenthood San Antonio to return thousands of WHP funds in 2009 because Planned Parenthood had been illegally operating unlicensed abortion facilities at the same sites where they were providing WHP services.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser also responded, saying, “Planned Parenthood, America’s abortion giant, is holding hostage the health care of low-income women across Texas in order to keep its pockets lined with taxpayer dollars.”
“As Governor Perry has pointed out, Planned Parenthood clinics represent less than two percent of the more than 2,500 enrolled providers. By suing in court and demanding taxpayer funding, Planned Parenthood may leave the state with no choice but to end the Women’s Health Program in order to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to subsidize the abortion industry,” she continued.
Before the lawsuit, the Obama Administration cut off the Women’s Health Care Program (WHP) for over 100,000 Texas women at over 2,400 providers for the sake of Planned Parenthood, which provides only limited health service at 44 facilities in Texas. In response, Governor Rick Perry and state lawmakers found their own funding for it.
The Medicaid Women’s Health Program provides preventive health care to over 100,000 low-income women in Texas every year. There are over 2,400 qualified providers of the Medicaid WHP in Texas; only 44 Planned Parenthood facilities currently receive the funds.
The decision to cut Planned Parenthood funding also already forced the abortion business to close several centers throughout the state.
In December, the Obama Administration refused to renew funding for Texas’ Women’s Health Program (WHP) because of new state rules that disqualify abortion business affiliates from participation in the program. The WHP encompasses Medicaid family planning services for low income women. The program started through authorizing legislation in 2005 and was renewed in the recent 82nd legislative session with new pro-life rules.