Monday, April 30, 2012

A Court Win For Planned Parenthood

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin ruled today that state officials cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from a federally funded state health care and contraception program for low-income women.

Judge Yeakel's grant of a preliminary injunction for Planned Parenthood allows it to continue to provide health care services, which are reimbursed under the federally funded state program. Judge Yeakel must conduct a full hearing before the injunction can be made permanent. and he set a The Judge set a May 18th scheduling conference to work out details, including setting a trial date. State officials have warned that they will cancel the Women’s Health Program outright, if Planned Parenthood prevailed in its lawsuit.

Rallies were held in Texas last March 13th on the eve of the elimination of funding to the Women's Health Program through the state, and subsequently to all Planned Parenthood clinics because... well, because the far right apparently doesn't like women to have health care.

So 130,000 additional women in Texas found themselves without health care in March, in addition to the 180,000 women left without health care access to contraception and reproductive health services like pap smears and breast cancer screenings last year due to dramatic state budget cuts.

The March cuts were made because Governor Perry refuses federal funding that otherwise would go to Planned Parenthood clinics. Perry, and other opponents of women's health care in Texas, claim there are "alternatives" to Planned Parenthood clinics which provided low-income women--mothers, students, employees--with health services, but as Andrea Grimes reported for Reality Check, those alternatives just don't exist.

"The Women's Health Program [cut in March] serves an additional 130,000 women, bringing the total number of women without access to basic reproductive health care to 310,000," writes Grimes. "Some estimates put the number closer to 400,000.

Under state rules that went into effect in March, Planned Parenthood health clinics would have been excluded from participating in the program because they advocate to maintain abortion as a legal medical procedure. The state rule, Yeakel determined in his preliminary injunction ruling, violated Planned Parenthood’s rights of free speech and association.

“By requiring plaintiffs to certify that they do not ‘promote’ elective abortions and that they do not ‘affiliate’ with entities that perform or promote elective abortions … Texas is reaching beyond the scope of the government program and penalizing plaintiffs for their protected conduct,” Yeakel wrote in his order.

The Women’s Health Program, which receives 90 percent of its funding from the federal government, provides about 130,000 women a year with contraceptive care and potentially life-saving screenings for a wide range of conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes.


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