Texas Judge Rules State Can De-Fund Planned Parenthood

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 31, 2012   |   4:34PM   |   Austin, TX

A Texas state judge has delivered a ruling in response to the second legal challenge Planned Parenthood has brought against the state for removing the abortion business from its taxpayer-funded women’s health program.

The judge refused today to grant a temporary restraining order allowing Planned Parenthood to rejoin the Texas Women’s Health Program in time for the January launch of it. The judge ruled the program can move ahead as planned, without the abortion giant, while its lawsuit continues.

Governor Rick Perry responded to the decision, saying, “Today’s ruling finally clears the way for thousands of low-income Texas women to access much-needed care, while at the same time respecting the values and laws of our state. I applaud all those who stand ready to help these women live healthy lives without sending taxpayer money to abortion providers and their affiliates.”

A news report from a Texas media outlet has additional information.

“We are pleased the court rejected Planned Parenthood’s latest attempt to skirt state law,” said Lauren Bean, a spokesperson for the Texas attorney general’s office, in an email. Bean said the state “will continue to defend the Texas Legislature’s decision to prohibit abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving taxpayer dollars through the Women’s Health Program.”

In the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers passed a law requiring the Health and Human Services Commission, which ran the Women’s Health Program, to ban medical providers “affiliated” with abortion providers from participating in the program. The federal government told Texas that if the so-called Affiliate Ban Rule were implemented, it would stop providing federal matching funds of $9 for every $1 in state funds. In response, Gov. Rick Perry pledged to forgo the federal funding — roughly $30 million annually — and set up a state-funded version of the program called the Texas Women’s Health Program.

Planned Parenthood sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from excluding their clinics from the TWHP when it replaces the Women’s Health Program. They also asked the judge to stop the state from enacting a “poison pill” rule that would shut down the program down if a court allowed providers excluded under the Affiliate Ban Rule to participate.

“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women. This case isn’t about Planned Parenthood—it’s about women like Marcy Balquinta who rely on us for basic, preventive health care,” Ken S. Lambrecht, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said in a statement. “Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will be here for our patients. Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”

Although Planned Parenthood claims the decision hurts women health, the Texas health program connects women with hundreds of agencies that provide the same or better non-abortion health care as Planned Parenthood without also doing abortions that injure women and destroy unborn children.

“The new state program will provide contraception, cancer screenings and other services provided through the previous program at the same reimbursement rates for roughly 110,000 women who would be eligible for Medicaid if they became pregnant,” the article indicates.

Planned Parenthood estimates it may lose as many as 48,000 of the 110,000 women who participate in the program and go to Planned Parenthood to legitimate health clinics that do not also do abortions. Some Planned Parenthood clinics may be forced to close because of the revocation of taxpayer dollars from the abortion agency.

In this lawsuit, a Texas Planned Parenthood patient named Marcela “Marcy” Balquinta has filed suit for her and the abortion business and the lawsuit claims Health and Human Services executive director Kyle Janek and the Texas Department of State Health Services do not have the authority to exclude Planned Parenthood.

Earlier this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to grant an additional hearing to Planned Parenthood regarding Texas’ legislation to end taxpayer funding of abortion companies.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded the decision, saying, “Today’s ruling affirms yet again that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion. In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”

Last year the Texas state legislature defunded abortion providers including Planned Parenthood of state-controlled family planning funding. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission rejecting Texas’ law by turning down the state’s request to run their own family planning program. In March 2012, HHS officially stopped $30 million in federal funding for Texas’ Women’s Health Program because they excluded Planned Parenthood. Governor Perry pledged to fully fund the program using state dollars.

In August 2012, the Fifth Circuit court overturned the April 2012 ruling of a Texas judge who granted a preliminary injunction to Planned Parenthood affiliates while they sued the state of Texas over the law. Previously, Texas Governor Rick Perry pointed out that Planned Parenthood clinics represent less than two percent of the more than 2,500 enrolled providers.

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.

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.”

In response, President Obama withdrew all federal support for the program, and Planned Parenthood sued the state of Texas. Judge Lee Yeakel blocked the law from going into effect, yet Yeakel’s ruling was appealed by Attorney General Greg Abbott, and the Fifth Circuit Court removed the block.

In addition to these approximately 4,000 agencies, Governor Perry’s office has identified another 2,500 eligible providers with 4,600 locations across the state. Planned Parenthood runs 69 facilities.

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.