Court: Texas may block Planned Parenthood from State funding

WASHINGTON—Texas can enforce a state law that prevents leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood from participating in a women’s health program, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Aug. 21 lifted a preliminary injunction issued in April by a federal judge that had blocked implementation of the 2011 law. The measure prohibits 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.”

Planned Parenthood failed to show it is “likely to succeed in demonstrating that the … restriction on promoting elective abortions violates their First Amendment rights,” the Fifth Circuit, three-judge panel ruled. The judges returned the case to the federal court for consideration.

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.

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. The federal government provides about 90 percent of the money for the program.

In response, Gov. Rick Perry said he plans for the state to make up the funding difference left by the federal government’s withdrawal.

Perry welcomed the Fifth Circuit decision, saying it “is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also lauded the decision, saying it “rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women’s Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion. We are encouraged by today’s decision and will continue to defend the Women’s Health Program in court.”

Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said, “This debate is about true women’s health, and abortion is not health care.

“We should help low-income women, but funneling them to abortion clinics does not help. Instead, there are more than 4,000 legitimate healthcare agencies that provide a wide range of services that are not affiliated with abortion providers.”

Planned Parenthood decried the Fifth Circuit action.

“It is shocking that once again it appears that politics is getting in the way of women receiving access to basic health care,” said Melaney Linton, president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federal of America (PPFA) reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, again making PPFA America’s No. 1 abortion provider. PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The unanimous ruling was handed down by nominees of Presidents Reagan (E. Grady Jolly), George H.W. Bush (Harold R. DeMoss Jr.) and Clinton (Carl E. Stewart). Stewart concurred only in the judgment.
    
—With additional reporting by the TEXAN staff.

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