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Planned Parenthood Loses Rehearing Bid in Texas Funding Cutoff

Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas lost a bid for a rehearing before the full federal appellate court in New Orleans, where a three-judge panel ruled the state can immediately bar the clinics from participating in a public health program for poor women.

Planned Parenthood had asked the full court to review the panel’s August decision, which lifted a temporary injunction that prevented Texas from cutting off state funds until a trial can be held on the issue. A trial scheduled in Austin for this month was delayed until the appellate court made a final ruling.

The appeals court yesterday denied the clinics’ request in a one-page order that offered no explanation. U.S. Circuit Judge Grady Jolly checked a box on the page indicating no Fifth Circuit judge had asked that the members of the court be polled on Planned Parenthood’s rehearing petition.

Texas lawmakers barred Planned Parenthood from a program that provides health care to thousands of low-income women because it claims the clinics are affiliated with abortion providers. While the 49 Texas clinics banned from the program don’t provide abortion services, the state said their close affiliation with a national pro-choice group such as Planned Parenthood undermined the state’s pro-life public policy position.

Free Speech

Planned Parenthood sued Texas on claims the state was violating the clinics’ constitutional rights of free speech and association.

“Today a unanimous appeals court rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women’s Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. She said the Austin judge should set a date “in the very near future” to begin the trial on the merits of the case.

“This case has never been about Planned Parenthood -- it’s about the Texas women who turn to us every day,” Kenneth Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said in an e-mailed statement. “Politics should never come between a woman and her health care, but in this decision, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, it appears it has.”

Adopted Rule

On Oct. 18, Texas adopted its “affiliate ban rule” which will formally bar the Planned Parenthood clinics from the state-funded program when the rule takes effect next week, Lambrecht said. Under the new rule, Texas will pay 100 percent of the costs of its low-income women’s health program, to avoid complying with an Obama administration directive that tied continued federal funding to the Planned Parenthood clinics’ ability to remain as state-authorized providers in the program, he said.

“If Texas officials would restore Planned Parenthood as a women’s health provider, 90 percent of that cost would be borne by the federal government,” Lambrecht said. He said the organization had no plans to close clinics or exit the state.

“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

The ruling “affirms yet again that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion,” Governor Rick Perry said in an e-mailed statement. “In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”

The district court 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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