Texas affiliates of Planned Parenthood are suing the state over a law barring the women's health organization from receiving funding.

A newly passed Texas law excluding abortion providers from the Medicaid Women's Health Program has already led the Obama administration to cut off federal dollars that covered about 90 percent of the program's cost. The lawsuit, filed by eight Planned Parenthood organizations that do not provide abortions, contends that the law is unconstitutional, politically motivated and would cause irreparable harm to tens of thousands of women.

This rule impermissibly penalizes Planned Parenthood, and has the effect of restricting Texans' access to health care, Pete Schenkkan, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a press release.  We are asking the court to ensure Planned Parenthood can continue to provide Women's Health Program services to these women. 

The Women's Health Program provides services like cancer screenings and contraception to low-income women who are not eligible for other Medicaid programs. In an interview with the Washington Post, the vice president of the Planned Parenthood affiliate serving the southeastern Texas area called the program a lifeline for Texas women lacking health insurance.

It allows them to come in and get a well-woman exam so they're grateful to know they can get everything they need taken care of, Rochelle Tafolla told the Washington Post, adding that the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast affiliate served some 16,000 women in 2011.

The lawsuit says that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has exceeded its authority with a rule that contradicts the Women's Health Program's purpose, but Texas has maintained that it is well within its rights and Gov. Rick Perry has promised that the state will find other sources of funding for the program. A posting on the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's website said there would be no disruption of services during the transition to a state-funded program.

Several states have tried to halt funding to organizations that provide abortions, drawing legal action from the federal government. Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sworn to end funding for Planned Parenthood if elected.

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