Planned Parenthood rescued by Texas court

By Tom Strode
Oct 30, 2012

Planned Parenthood has gained another reprieve in its ongoing battle against Texas to retain millions of dollars in government funding.

A judge in Austin, Texas, ordered the state Oct. 26 to put a stop for the time being to enforcement of a law that prohibits Planned Parenthood from participating in a women’s health program. State judge Amy Clark Meachum scheduled a Nov. 8 hearing in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, in addition to issuing the temporary restraining order, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider, gained the legal victory a day after being dealt a setback in the federal court system. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected Planned Parenthood’s request for its full panel of judges to rehear its case. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit ruled in August the state had shown it likely would succeed in demonstrating it had not violated Planned Parenthood’s First Amendment rights and could enforce the law.

The 2011 law bars the state from contracting under the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program with organizations that “perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.” The ban reportedly affects only Planned Parenthood. More than 1,000 health-care providers certified for the program are not affiliated with abortion clinics, according to the Texas Alliance for Life.

After failing in federal court, Planned Parenthood tried a new strategy in state court. It said the law should be ruled “inoperable” if it costs it federal money, which constitutes about 90 percent of the program’s funds, according to the American-Statesman.

Gov. Rick Perry said in a written statement after Meachum’s order, “If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer. Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers. In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail.”

In its suit in state court, Planned Parenthood said the law would cost it $13 million, result in the shutdown of six or seven Texas clinics and require another six or seven centers to reduce hours or workers, the American-Statesman reported.

Pete Schenkkan, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said in a written release the Texas law “is invalid under state law and, most importantly, threatens the integrity of the program and harms women who rely on Planned Parenthood, the provider of choice for nearly half of the patients” in the program.

In March, the Obama administration announced it would not grant a waiver to the women’s health program because of the ban on Planned Parenthood, thereby ending federal funding for services to about 130,000 women.

Texas will move ahead with plans to start a state-financed, women’s health program as early as Nov. 1, a state official said, according to the newspaper. The cost of the program is expected to be about $36 million next year.

“Abortion-centered organizations like Planned Parenthood neither need nor deserve taxpayer dollars,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement.

“Texas has shown the rest of America what it means to be both pro-woman and pro-life,” she said.

Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements during its 2009-10 fiscal year.

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