The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with Texas on Tuesday over its new law barring clinics affiliated with abortion providers from receiving funding through a state health program for low-income women.
As part of the state’s Women’s Health Program, Planned Parenthood provides family planning and other health services such as cancer screenings, but not abortions, for clients who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. About half of the 130,000 participants in WHP are served by Planned Parenthood.
The new state law bans WHP funding for abortion-affiliated clinics. Planned Parenthood sued, saying the law violates its right to free speech. Texas argued the Legislature may decide which organizations to fund.
Federal funds had paid $35 million of WHP’s $40 million cost before the new legislation, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said violated federal law. Federal officials are now phasing out WHP support. Gov. Rick Perry promised to make up for the loss of federal funds.
A federal judge in Austin ruled in May that WHP funding to Planned Parenthood should continue pending an October trial date, saying evidence is sufficient that the law is unconstitutional. In the new ruling, the 5th Circuit’s three-member appellate panel reversed that temporary injunction, unanimously finding Planned Parenthood is unlikely to prevail in its challenge.
“We appreciate the court’s ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from [WHP] as quickly as possible,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokesperson for the state Health and Human Services Commission.
The case “has never been about Planned Parenthood - it’s about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
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