Texas Gets Judge's OK To Defund Planned Parenthood After Hit With Injunction

 @DanRivoli on May 01 2012 3:01 PM
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Reuters

After a federal judge Monday morning blocked Texas from kicking Planned Parenthood out of a women's health program, an appeals judge later that day overturned the injunction in a blow to the reproductive health organization.

Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Louisiana, stayed a lower judge's order that prevented Texas from moving forward with a law banning abortion-promoting organizations like Planned Parenthood from receiving funds under the state's Women's Health Program.

Planned Parenthood had been in compliance with the Texas family-planning program by legally and financially separating its abortion services to avoid using state funds for the procedure. But a new law Texas' Republican lawmakers passed barred from the program organizations that advocate and are affiliated with abortion-services provider, like sharing a logo or name.

A group of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas that do not perform abortions sued to block the law. A day before the law was set to take effect, Yeakel ruled that it would likely be an unconstitutional penalty on protected free speech -- that is, advocating or affiliating with abortion-service providers.

Calling Yeakel's ruling flawed, Abbott said the order effectively forces Texas to choose between contravening state law and shutting down the Women's Health Program.

The State of Texas -- and the women of Texas who depend on the Women's Health Program -- will be irreparably harmed because state law prohibits Texas from continuing to operate the [program] if taxpayer money must be provided to entities that affiliate with abortion-promoting entities, Abbott argued.

The program services more than 100,000 low-income women in Texas with cancer screenings, birth control, and STD treatments and tests. Planned Parenthood says it's the single largest services provider in the Women's Health Program, covering 40 percent of the program's clients.

This ruling allows the state to fully enforce state law today and exclude abortion providers from the Women's Health Program, said Stephanie Goodman, a Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, according to the Statesman in Austin.

Monday's set of rulings throws the legal row over abortion and women's health funding in limbo. Texas can kick Planned Parenthood out of the program udner Smith's order, but the Fifth Circuit will revisit the issue Tuesday when the organization files its response by 5 p.m., the Statesman reported.

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