Federal Judge Halts Texas Planned Parenthood Defunding

NEW YORK | Monday, April 30th, 2012 10:09pm EDT

A federal judge on Monday blocked a Texas rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s women’s health program.

Federal Judge Halts Texas Planned Parenthood Defunding 01

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a new Texas rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood clinics from offering women's health services for the poor in the state because the organization provides abortions. Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

A federal court in Texas ruled to stop a new law on Monday that excluded Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program, which serves about 130,000 low-income women in the state. U.S., reports The Huffington Post.

The judge ruled Monday there was sufficient evidence the state rule barring Planned Parenthood is unconstitutional. He imposed a temporary injunction against enforcing it until he can hear full arguments.

“The court is particularly influenced by the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women,” Yeakel wrote in his ruling. “The record before the court at this juncture reflects uncertainty as to the continued viability of the Texas Women’s Health Program.”

According to MSN BC, the rule forbids state agencies from providing funds to an organization affiliated with abortion providers. It was set to go into effect on Tuesday.

“Federal funds available to the Women’s Health Program are being phased out,” Yeakel wrote. “Although the governor has instructed that the program is to continue fully funded by Texas, the current record gives the court no comfort that funds are or will be available to continue the program after the phaseout of federal funds.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry and some Republican lawmakers have said they would rather eliminate the women’s healthcare program entirely than direct money to Planned Parenthood clinics.

According to Bloomberg, Perry pledged last month to replace almost $30 million in federal funds for the women’s health program that the Obama administration cut off because of the state ban.

President Obama has said Texas can’t block federally approved organizations such as Planned Parenthood from participating in programs underwritten by Medicaid, which pays for health services for the poor.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Perry, said in a statement that Texas has a “long history of protecting life, and we are confident” in state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s appeal to “defend the will of Texans and our state law, which prohibits taxpayer funds from supporting abortion providers and affiliates in the Women’s Health Program.”

The preliminary injunction is a big win for Planned Parenthood, which has been under siege in several states by abortion opponents. In the past year alone, states including Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina and Tennessee, in addition to Texas, have all moved to block Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money.

“We call on Governor Perry and the state to put Texan women first and set aside any vendetta they may have against Planned Parenthood,” said Patricio Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County. “No woman should ever have to fear being cut off from her doctor’s care because of shortsighted political games.”

“For many women, we are the only doctor’s visit they will have this year,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “This ruling affirms what women have known all along: politics simply doesn’t have a place in women’s health.”

The state Health and Human Services Commission will comply with the order and will work with the state attorney general to determine its next steps, spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.

“We remain confident that federal law gives states the right to establish criteria for Medicaid providers,” Goodman said.

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