Planned Parenthood won a state court ruling blocking Texas from cutting off public funds to its clinics that don’t provide abortion services the day after a federal appeals court refused to hear a related dispute.
Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Austin issued a temporary restraining order hours after the organization sued the state yesterday to void a Texas law that cuts off public funding for affiliates of abortion providers. A copy of the order was provided by Planned Parenthood. It couldn’t immediately be independently confirmed in court records.
Planned Parenthood contends Texas violated state law by enacting a regulation that bars the group’s clinics which don’t provide abortion services from participating in the state’s health program for poor women because they are associated with a larger abortion-rights organization.
Under the Texas Human Resources Code, which governs the women’s health program, any provision is “inoperative if it causes Texas to lose federal matching funds” for that program, Planned Parenthood said in an e-mailed statement. “The rule will cost Texas taxpayers nearly $200 million over five years.”
The Obama administration withdrew U.S. funding for the Texas women’s health program after state lawmakers last year passed the regulation blocking participation by groups affiliated with elective-abortion providers. Federal funding had previously underwritten 90 percent of the program’s cost, Planned Parenthood said in the statement.
Yesterday’s complaint sought a court order preventing Texas from immediately cutting off public funds to 49 Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas that don’t provide abortion services. The organization also seeks a permanent injunction barring Texas from enforcing the “affiliate ban.”
“Plaintiffs would continue to provide the same covered services to Women’s Health Program enrollees as they have done since the program’s inception in 2007, services the state rightly considers critical for women who would otherwise lack reasonable access to such care,” Planned Parenthood’s lawyers said in the complaint.
Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a Twitter post that the court ruling ignores the will of the state Legislature and the people.
“TX will keep fighting to protect innocent life,” he said.
The organization sued Texas in federal court in Austin in April. In that action, Planned Parenthood claimed the state violated the group’s constitutional rights of free speech and association by using the affiliate ban to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provided services to almost 48,000 poor women last year.
In the federal case, Planned Parenthood won a lower-court ruling that temporarily blocked the state from cutting off funds. That ruling was reversed in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The appellate panel refused on Oct. 25 to rehear the case, clearing the way for the state to withhold taxpayer funds. A trial on the merits of Planned Parenthood’s constitutional claims hasn’t been scheduled yet.
The state court case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services Inc. v Texas Health & Human Services Commission, D-1-GN-12-003365, Judicial District Court of Travis County (Austin).
The federal case is Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County Texas v. Suehs, 12-00322, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin). The appeals court case is Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County Texas v. Suehs, 12-50377, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).
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