Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood sues over ‘Affiliate Ban Rule’

There is a new development today in the legal battle over funding for Planned Parenthood. The organization is suing over the state’s "Affiliate Ban Rule."

Planned Parenthood argues the rule is invalid under state law. The suit comes one day after a federal appeals court denied Planned Parenthood’s appeal of a ruling excluding it from the Women’s Health Program.

At the heart of the issue is a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011. The Women’s Health Program was formed in 2005 to provide women’s health services to low-income women who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

The program did not include using taxpayer money to fund clinics that provided abortions. Last year, lawmakers took the measure a step further when it reauthorized the law and banned organizations affiliated with abortion providers from receiving state subsidies. By excluding those providers, the state lost $40 million in federal funding to the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The lawsuit filed today cites Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code, which Planned Parenthood says authorizes the Women’s Health Program "subject to approval from the federal government."

It argues the Health and Human Services Commission was "not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding."

Planned Parenthood has a separate lawsuit pending in federal court. That case deals with the constitutionality of the state law banning abortion provider affiliates from receiving funding. Planned Parenthood claims the statute violates its First Amendment right to free speech.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Greg Abbott has also filed a separate lawsuit against the federal government. He filed that suit after the federal government cut off funding to the Women’s Health Program following the state’s decision to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from participating.

Abbott argues that the state has a right to determine who receives federal medicaid funding and asked the government to restore the money. In the meantime, the state plans to move forward with funding the program on its own.

Texas Women’s Health Program rules released

Rules governing the new Texas Women’s Health Program will take effect, November 1st. Today, Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek released the guidelines.

There are some changes to the original rules that were being discussed. In its rules released today, the commission decided it would allow doctors to talk to their patients about abortion, as long as they are providing "neutral, factual information and nondirective counseling." They can provide patients with abortion providers information and phone numbers, as long as the doctors don’t contact the provider directly.

The new rules also go further to define exactly what qualifies as an "abortion affiliate." The commission requires that a clinic maintain "physical and financial separation" from any abortion provider. They also must have a separate governing board and cannot share any funds.

The formation of the Texas Women’s Health Program comes on the heels of the state’s decision to cut 40-million dollars in federal funding to the Medicaid Women’s Health Program and fund it on its own. At the heart of the issue is a state law banning tax payer money to any organization associated with an abortion provider.

By excluding those providers, the state lost federal funding; which paid for 90 percent of the Women’s Health Program. The program is designed to provide health care screenings to low income women. The decision excluded several Planned Parenthood clinics, which did not provide abortions, on the basis that they are affiliated with clinics that do. They sued the state. That case is still pending. However, their funding is set to dry up on November 1.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Kenneth Lambrecht released this statement in response to the new "Affiliate Ban Rules":

“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first. The Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood have worked together to provide women with essential health services, including cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, for the past five years.

There is no sound reason Texas should jeopardize this important program by cutting off access to the health care provider relied on by nearly half of the women receiving preventive health services in the program. It is shocking that state officials would rather end low-income women’s access to family planning and preventive health services altogether than allow Planned Parenthood to provide these vital health services to women who choose to come to Planned Parenthood for care.

Planned Parenthood is exploring every option available to protect the health of the more than 100,000 women who rely on the Women’s Health Program. Our top priority is ensuring women in Texas have access to high quality, affordable health care. We wish politicians in Austin shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”

The complete rules and changes are below:

Planned Parenthood calls appeals court ruling ‘shocking’

Planned Parenthood is responding to yesterday’s 5th Circuit of Appeals Court ruling that lifted an injunction that prevented Texas from implementing a law that would eliminate funding for the organization. Officials released this statement, today:

“It is shocking that once again it appears that politics is getting in the way of women receiving access to basic health care. Today’s ruling allows the state to deny low-income, uninsured Texas women health care from their trusted provider-Planned Parenthood.

“Governor Perry has already thrown 160,000 women off of health care for partisan political reasons — now there will be more to come. The state’s ongoing efforts jeopardize the health of tens of thousands of Texas women.

"This case has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the women who rely on us for basic health care including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and annual exams. We are here for Texas women.

“For more than 75 years, women and families in Texas have trusted Planned Parenthood for high-quality, affordable health care and information. We won’t let politics interfere with the health care that 52,000 women and families across Texas rely on Planned Parenthood to stay healthy."

Perry applauds Women’s Health Program court ruling

Gov. Rick Perry is praising the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn an injunction preventing a Texas law from taking effect. As we reported earlier this evening, the three judge panel issued a ruling tonight that clears the way for the state to cut off Planned Parenthood funding.

Perry released this statement:

“Today’s ruling affirms that Texas’ Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund organizations that promote abortion – including Planned Parenthood. The 5th Circuit’s decision is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life. We will continue to work with Attorney General Abbott in the fight to defend our state laws.

“Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program.”

Appeals court clears way for Planned Parenthood funding cuts

Texas received the go-ahead Tuesday to cut off Planned Parenthood funding, pending an October trial. It’s the latest legal twist in the ongoing Women’s Health Program funding court drama.

Since the Women’s Health Program was formed in 2005, taxpayer money never funded abortion providers. Last year, the Texas legislature took the measure a step further when it reauthorized the law and banned organizations affiliated with abortion providers from receiving state subsidies.

Nine Planned Parenthood clinics–which do not provide abortions–filed suit, claiming the law violates their First Amendment rights. Attorney General Greg Abbott argued the state gets to determine how state money is spent.

The plaintiffs won that round. Planned Parenthood received a temporary injunction, blocking the enforcement of the law. The federal judge in Austin even went one step further, saying there was sufficient evidence the state’s law is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, however, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dealt another reversal. In a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel overturned the injunction, freeing Texas to cut off funding.

Gov. Rick Perry has insisted that if the state is forced to include Planned Parenthood in the WHP, it will shut down the program altogether. Perry has said the state would find another way to pay for low-income women’s health programs.

The trial is set for October. Federal Judge Lee Yaekel warned both sides a decision likely won’t be reached before Nov. 1, which is when the state had said it would eliminate the program.

You can read the full brief, below: