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Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Women's Health Program

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A state district judge has issued a temporary restraining order telling Texas not to kick Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid Women's Health Program, if they continue to accept federal funds.

    In response, state officials said they will launch a new program on Nov. 1 using only state funds and exclude the group.

    Planned Parenthood has been fighting a new rule that bans groups affiliated with abortion providers from taking part in a taxpayer-funded program that provides preventive health care and contraception to poor women.

    State law prohibits taxpayer-funded abortions, but lawmakers also ordered officials to withhold funding from groups what work with abortion providers.

    Federal officials declared the new rule illegal and withdrew Medicaid funding saying the new rule interferes with a woman's right to choose their doctor.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:

    “If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer.  Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers.  In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life.  We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail.”

    Planned Parenthood released a statement on their reasoning for appealing the decision:

    To protect Texas women’s access to essential health care, Planned Parenthood today filed suit in state court, claiming that the “Affiliate Ban Rule” barring Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program is in violation of state law.
     
    The court issued a temporary restraining order, which will prevent the “Affiliate Ban Rule” from barring Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program until the court holds a hearing on our request for a temporary injunction, which is currently set for November 8, 2012. This ruling is a small victory for the approximately 50,000 Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for care through the Women’s Health Program, which includes lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.  We hope that the court will next grant our request for a temporary injunction.

    “We are in court to stand up for the health of more than 100,000 women in the Women’s Health Program,” said Kenneth S. Lambrecht, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.  “We will do everything possible to protect the health of women and families in Texas.”

    The federal government, which has covered 90 percent of the cost of the Women’s Health Program, declared that the Affiliate Ban Rule impermissibly restricts the rights of patients and would not be allowed in the Medicaid program.  The rule will cost Texas taxpayers nearly $200 million over five years.

    In the lawsuit filed today, Planned Parenthood argues that the Rules are not authorized by Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code, which establishes the Women’s Health Program subject to approval from the federal government.  This chapter also makes any provision “inoperative” if it were to cause Texas to lose federal matching money for the Women’s Health Program.  HHSC 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.  The Affiliate Ban Rule is, therefore, invalid as a matter of state law.

    “The state’s ‘Affiliate Ban Rule’ is invalid under state law and, most importantly, threatens the integrity of the program and harms women who rely on Planned Parenthood, the provider of choice for nearly half of the patients who receive basic, preventive health care in the Women’s Health Program,” said Pete Schenkkan, attorney with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody.  Currently more than one-quarter of Texas women are uninsured, and women in Texas have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the U.S.

    “I’m among tens of thousands of Texas women who will lose access to this health care provider that I trust if Governor Perry succeeds in kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Texas Women’s Health Program.  Earlier this year, when I was uninsured and found a lump in my breast, I knew there was one place I could go for help: Planned Parenthood,” said Alejandrina Henderson, of Waco.  “The staff at Planned Parenthood helped refer me to a facility where the benign tumor was examined, biopsied and removed. They made the process seamless and worry-free so that I could continue to work, go to college and take care of my family.”

    If Planned Parenthood is banned from the Women’s Health Program, it will jeopardize health care access for tens of thousands of Texas women.  Research demonstrates community health centers would have to greatly expand their in order to offset the loss of Planned Parenthood from the program, which research shows is nearly impossible after cuts to women’s health enacted in 2011.  On August 30, Texas’ then Medicaid Director acknowledged that the Texas Women’s Health Program does not have sufficient alternative providers to meet the needs of the approximately 50,000 patients served by Planned Parenthood.