A district judge ruled on Monday that Texas can legally cut Planned Parenthood out of its new state-funded health program for women, which launches on Tuesday.
The Texas Women's Health Program, which provides basic health care and family planning services to low-income women, previously received about 90 percent of its $35 million annual funding from the federal government. When state legislators voted to cut Planned Parenthood out of the program because some of its affiliates provide abortions, the Department of Health and Human Services warned the state that if it broke federal Medicaid rules by discriminating against a qualified provider, it would no longer receive federal funding for the program. Instead of reinstating Planned Parenthood funding, Gov. Rick Perry (R) decided to start a new women's health program funded entirely by the state so that it could continue to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program.
Planned Parenthood currently serves about half of the 130,000 women in the Women's Health Program, and none of the Planned Parenthood clinics that participate in the program offer abortions. Attorneys for the family planning provider filed for a temporary restraining order against the new rules so that it could continue to serve women through the program until a final court ruling is issued in January.
Visiting Judge Gary Harger denied that request on Monday, ruling that Texas's state-funded program can immediately exclude any contractor that is affiliated with an abortion provider.
"We are pleased the court rejected Planned Parenthood's latest attempt to skirt state law," Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in a statement. "The Texas Attorney General's office will continue to defend the Texas Legislature's decision to prohibit abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving taxpayer dollars through the Women's Health Program."
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas plans to remain open, despite the funding setback. But many low-income women who participate in the Women's Health Program will have to find a different provider as soon as Tuesday.
“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women,” said Ken S. Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will be here for our patients. Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their well being.”