Planned Parenthood has filed a new suit in Texas state court claiming that it cannot, under state law, be excluded from participating in the newly-established Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP)—a program which the state created with the express purpose of being able to exclude Planned Parenthood, because Texas considers the health care organization an “abortion affiliate.”
A state judge in Austin issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing the state from banning Planned Parenthood from the state-run women’s health program. The order was issued a day after a federal appellate court refused to reconsider an earlier 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed the state to implement the ban; Planned Parenthood argued the funding ban should be blocked because it was in violation of federal law.
In the lawsuit filed in Travis County District Court, Planned Parenthood argues that the state’s Affiliate Ban Rule is not authorized by Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code. That is the state law which establishes the Women’s Health Program.
According to the statute, the program is subject to approval from the federal government and makes any provision “inoperative” if it causes the state to lose federal matching money for the Women’s Health Program. According to the lawsuit, HHSC was not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding. The Affiliate Ban Rule is, therefore, invalid as a matter of state law.
In Texas, the Planned Parenthood clinics providing preventive health care to about 50,000 WHP clients or nearly half of the total enrollees in the program are kept completely separate—both financially and physically—from clinics that provide safe abortion care. In fact, pregnant women cannot even participate in the WHP, as the program itself is specifically for the prevention of pregnancy in the first place. Abortion has about as much to do with WHP services as heart surgery might; participants in the program are seen for a very limited selection of reproductive health services, including pap smears and contraception. No WHP patient should ever need an abortion because, if the program works properly as it has done for years, no WHP patient should experience an unplanned pregnancy.
However, Texas Governor Rick Perry released a statement yesterday in response to the new lawsuit vowing to “keep fighting for life:”