Texas Must Fund Planned Parenthood: US Judge

on April 30 2012 6:30 PM
Planned Parenthood Vs. Komen
A bill that would have diverted state funding from Planned Parenthood's Ohio clinics will not be up for a vote this term. REUTERS

A federal judge Monday blocked Texas from kicking Planned Parenthood out of a state women's health program, saying a law banning organizations that promote abortions is an infringement on free speech.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin placed a preliminary injunction on a Texas law prohibiting groups that promote abortions and affiliate with abortion providers from participating in the Women's Health Program, which expands access to family-planning services for uninsured women.

By advocating for women's access to safe and legal abortion services and associating with entities providing such services, [Planned Parenthood groups] are exercising these fundamental rights, Yeakel wrote in his order. The law implicates these rights by conditioning plaintiffs' participation in the Women's Health Program on their speech and associations.

The women's sexual health organization has been a frequent target of defunding by conservatives in Congress and in Republican-dominated state houses. In Texas, nine Planned Parenthood organizations operating 49 health centers filed suit against the state.

To comply with Texas law, Planned Parenthood is legally and financially separate from abortion clinics as a condition for state health funding. But the disputed law the Texas' Republican legislature passed last year would have ensnared Planned Parenthood organizations that do not provide abortion services.

The court is particularly influenced by the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women, Yeakel said of his decision granting the injunction.

Yeakel had rejected arguments from Texas officials that any funding to Planned Parenthood frees up the organization to spend more on abortion services, saying courts have not looked favorably upon this argument, as it extends too far.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, said state Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal the court's decision, according to Austin publication, Capitol Tonight.

Texas has a long history of protecting life, and we are confident in Attorney General 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, Frazier said.

The new law cost Texas federal funding for the Texas Women's Health Program, as it restricted a person's choice of family-planning providers. Perry has said the state would keep the program running once federal funds are phased out; Yeakel was skeptical of the governor's claim.

The record before the court ... reflects uncertainty as to the continued viability of the Texas Women's Health Program, Yeakel wrote. If federal funds are phased out, Texas does not provide another source of funds, and the Women's Health program terminates, the controversy now before the court may be of no consequence.

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