News from around the state of Texas

Planned Parenthood Files Lawsuit, Gov. Perry Strengthens Resolve

Texas Women's Health program goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013

By Frank Heinz
|  Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012  |  Updated 4:59 PM CDT
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Gov. Perry Resolute Amid Planned Parenthood Lawsuits

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry outlined initiatives to strengthen the state's ban on taxpayer-funded abortions on the same day Planned Parenthood filed two new lawsuits in state and federal courts designed to keep them in the new Texas Women's Health program.

With the new program, the state is moving to defund clinics and doctors with ties to groups that provide abortions. Planned Parenthood has waged an ongoing legal battle to remain in the program.

The lawsuit in state court was filed by McAllen woman who relies on Planned Parenthood for affordable cancer screenings and birth control. The lawsuit argues that Texas lacks the authority to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program.

“Thanks to the care I receive through Planned Parenthood and WHP, I have been able to keep healthy while finishing up school and working toward my career goals. I love my job and work hard, but at the end of the day, like many women out there, I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Marcela “Marcy” Balquinta, in a statement released by Planned Parenthood. “Without the affordable care I receive through Planned Parenthood and WHP, I would have to make tough decisions between paying for my cancer screenings and birth control, or buying groceries or gas for my car. If I couldn’t go to Planned Parenthood, I don’t know where I’d turn. And there are tens of thousands of Texas women like me.”

Planned Parenthood claims that if they are banned from the Texas Women’s Health Program, or if Texas chooses to end the Texas Women’s Health Program, it will jeopardize health care access for Balquinta and tens of thousands of Texas women. 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., according to Planned Parenthood.

“We are in court to stand up for women like Marcy Balquinta who rely on the program for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic care,” said Patricio Gonzales, CEO, Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County. “We will continue to do everything possible to protect the health of women and families in Texas.”

The federal lawsuit challenges the exclusion of Planned Parenthood as a violation of patients' civil rights.

Planned Parenthood said their clinics provide services to an estimated 50,000 women from 40 health centers under the Women's Health Program.

Also on Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, along with Senator-elect Donna Campbell, outlined initiatives to strengthen the state’s ban on abortions and strengthen standards of care for women seeking abortions, including requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital, and requiring abortion clinics to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).

“It's time to acknowledge 21st century medicine and technology with 21st century legislation. We need to protect the tiniest and weakest of Texans, our children, both born and unborn,” Campbell said. “In addition, we should champion women's health by holding facilities and physicians that perform abortions to the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers and physicians. Our duty is to protect the general welfare of Texans, and I will work everyday to keep Texas strong and healthy."

"We've banned the use of tax dollars for abortion procedures in Texas, and stood strong in the face of the expected backlash from that decision, proclaiming the truth that protecting the rights of abortion providers and protecting women's health are not the same thing," Perry said in a speech Tuesday. "Now, to be clear, my goal ... is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past."

While Roe v. Wade prevents that, which Perry acknowledges, it's still the governor's goal to significantly reduce the number of abortions performed in Texas and to bring about legislation that further restricts that ability of the procedure.

“Over the last decade, Texas has taken extraordinary steps to protect the lives of the unborn, but when 80,000 lives continue to be lost to abortion each year in our state, we know our work is far from over,” Perry said. "We cannot, and we will not, stand idly by while the unborn are going through the agony of having their lives ended. Again, the ideal world is a world without abortion."

The Texas Women's Health Program is scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2013.

Read the governor's entire speech here.

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