Planned Parenthood

President Obama and Governor Rick Perry joined the ongoing debate about healthcare for economically disadvantaged women in Texas. The Obama administration is threatening to halt federal funding to the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) in response to Governor Perry’s decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

Governor Perry, however, assured women in Texas, “I will not stand by and let this administration abandon these Texas women to advance its political agenda; Texas will fund these services with or without the federal government,” according to the Governor Perry’s website.

“The Women’s Health Program has been in effect since 2007 and provides preventative health care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings to more than 100,000 low-income Texas women,” according to a government press release on Oct. 31.

 Since the launch of the program on Jan. 1, 2007, WHP has received 90 percent of funds from Medicaid. “From the beginning, elective abortions, affiliates of abortion providers and advocating abortion as a means of birth control have been banned from the program. Federal funding also excludes elective abortions,” said editorial director Mike Norman of Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

Until reauthorization last year, Texas had not put a ban on abortion affiliates. Rules were drafted by the Department of State Health Services to enforce the ban.

“Federal officials said banning providers based on services they or their affiliates offer is against Medicaid guidelines. They said the new Texas rules meant Medicaid funds would be withdrawn from the Women’s Health Program, beginning as soon as Nov. 1,” Norman said.

Governor Perry and State Health Commissioner Kyle Janek “have put in place plenty of providers for the new state-financed program, enough to take over Planned Parenthood’s patient load,” according to Norman.

 Deputy Press Secretary Lucy Nashed said, “The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has already identified state funding for the state-run program and has signed up 3,000 qualified providers. The WHP will not be cut-the state has already announced that it is ready to implement its own state-funded program that will provide the same services as the current program within the parameters of our state law-i.e. without contracting with abortion providers or their affiliates. In the meantime, we’re still fighting to keep the federal dollars while operating the program under our state law.”

 “[Planned Parenthood] filed a lawsuit against the Texas Women’s Health Program because one of the state program rules prevents clinics associated with Planned Parenthood from receiving funding if they perform abortions. Planned Parenthood argued that the rule violates state law,” Charles Poladian of International Business Times said.

Poladian continued, “Although Planned Parenthood does provide abortions, its clinics affiliated with the Texas Women’s Health Program do not perform abortions, but they are nonetheless being punished because they are affiliated with an abortion provider.”

Planned Parenthood filed in state court, hoping to argue that the rule violates Texas state law. “The argument goes that state law bars any rule that causes a loss in federal funding for the Texas Women’s Health Program,” Poladian said. According to the federal government, “the rule that prevents funding of the clinics violates a woman’s right to choose her own doctor.”

Planned Parenthood argued, “Because the state had initially tied the program to federal funding, the rule that caused the loss of federal funding is illegal and should therefore be eliminated.” 

According to a press release by Governor Perry, Planned Parenthood initially filed the lawsuit with the federal court, “but after the Fifth Circuit held that the organization’s claims have no merit, Planned Parenthood has decided to abandon the case and focus on a technical issue in a Travis County Court.”

Mara Posada, director of community relations for Planned Parenthood Trust of South Texas, said, “what the state is trying to do does not adhere to the 2011 Legislature, which passed the program with federal funding. Anything to take away from that cannot be passed. The legislature has no obligation to get rid of the [Women’s Health Program] if Planned Parenthood stays in.”

In a press release, Governor Perry said, “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 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.”

Regarding abortions by Planned Parenthood, Posada claimed, “None of the women covered by the program participate in abortion services. We only provide preventive services. This may be something people don’t realize.”

Retiring Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson expressed her opinion concerning healthcare availability to low-income Texas women in an interview with MSNBC. Hutchinson said, “I do think that the governor needs to sit down with the federal government and work it out so that we can have our share, our fair share, not more…money for Medicaid to help low-income women have their healthcare services.”

“I think Planned Parenthood does mammograms, they do so much of the healthcare, the preventative healthcare, and if they’re doing that, we need to provide those services, absolutely. We cannot afford to lose the Medicaid funding for low-income women,” Hutchinson said.

UTSA alumna Brandy Barksdale shared Senator Hutchinson’s opinion about Planned Parenthood’s healthcare services. “I don’t believe funding should be stripped because everyone is entitled to a chance at protecting or preparing themselves for parenthood,” Barksdale said, “and funding is needed for those purposes; however, it is unfortunate when people abuse that privilege.”

Governor Perry continues to fight for the rights and services of Texas women, hoping to keep abortion out of the picture. “In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail,” Governor Perry said.

“Planned Parenthood has won a temporary injunction as of Thursday, Nov. 8, in Austin court,” according to Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News. This injunction stemmed from the “previous temporary restraining order Planned Parenthood sought in state court to allow its participation,” Fikac said.

On Oct. 26, Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Austin issued a restraining order against Texas officials “from eliminating public funds for the 49 Plan
ned Parenthood clinics in the state that don’t provide abortions,” according to Kelley Shannon of Businessweek.

 “That means tens of thousands of women will continue receiving contraceptives and health screenings from the organization’s clinics,” Fikac said.

Thursday’s injunction “is great news for the 5,000 women who come to Planned Parenthood in San Antonio with little or no money but desperately needing family planning,” said Jeffrey Hones, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Trust of South Texas.

Despite this injunction, Governor Perry continues to seek other avenues of services without the Planned Parenthood program. According to Fikac, “The state is also suing in federal court to try to hold on to federal funding for the program while excluding Planned Parenthood.”

The Fifth Circuit in Austin will hear a case for a permanent injunction in December.

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