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Planned Parenthood Texas Ruling Lifts State Funding Bar

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Texas was blocked from enforcing a rule that would have kept Planned Parenthood-affiliated groups from participating in a state-funded women’s health program because they’re connected to an abortion provider.

The organizations sued Texas April 11 to block the rule, which bars the state from contracting with entities affiliated with abortion providers. The rule was designed to exclude the operators of 49 health centers from the program after April 30. Planned Parenthood argued the rule is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin wrote today in granting a preliminary injunction that the court is “particularly influenced by the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women.”

“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.”

The preliminary injunction doesn’t determine the outcome of the lawsuit, which must be decided by a trial, Yeakel said.

The case pits Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, against President Barack Obama, a Democrat, over a state ban on aid to abortion providers or their affiliates. Texas filed an appeal of Yeakel’s ruling.

Scope of Service

The nonprofit Planned Parenthood organizations care for almost half of the state program’s 130,000 participants.

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. 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 an e-mailed 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.”

In their complaint, the organizations argued that women in Texas are finding it difficult to get care at Planned Parenthood health centers and alternative providers, and that without today’s order patients would be forced to go without preventative care, resulting in increased risks of undiagnosed cancer, sexually transmitted illnesses and unplanned pregnancies.

Federation President

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an e-mailed statement that tens of thousands of Texan women enrolled in the state’s Women’s Health Program rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, annual exams, and access to birth control.

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

The case is Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County Texas v. Suehs, 12-00322, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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