A state district judge on
Friday denied Planned Parenthood’s appeal to retain its government funding as a
part of the Women’s Health Program (WHP).

Judge Stephen Yelenosky
said the appeal filed by Planned Parenthood was unlikely to succeed at trial since
federal funds were no longer an issue in the case. Yelenosky stated in the
ruling, “If, as plaintiffs argue, a successor program must be Medicaid-funded
then the only legal remedy would be for this court to shut down the
state-funded women’s health program, not to order the inclusion of Planned
Parenthood.”

For more than 75 years, Planned
Parenthood has operated in Texas as a sexual and reproductive healthcare
provider and advocate with the help of government subsidies provided by the
Women’s Health Program. The program has been revamped in reaction to new
legislation and has now gone from receiving federal reimbursement at a rate of
nine federal dollars to every one state dollar, to now being funded solely by
the state.

“The new state program will provide contraception,
cancer screenings and other services provided through the previous program at
the same reimbursement rates for roughly 110,000 women who would be eligible
for Medicaid if they became pregnant,” according to the Texas Tribune. “The
Texas Women’s Health Program will be funded only with state money and will be
run by a different state agency, the Department of State Health Services,
rather than Health and Human Services Committee (HHCP), which runs Texas
Medicaid and the Women’s Health Program.”

Gov. Rick Perry stated in a
press release, “This is great news for Texas women and further proves that
Planned Parenthood’s case attempting to derail the Texas Women’s Health Program
lacks merit.”

Perry said that Planned
Parenthood’s appeal was “nothing more than a desperate move by an
organization more concerned with obtaining taxpayer money than with helping
women get care. With this ruling, our state can continue caring for Texas
women.”

 Not
all state lawmakers shared Perry’s sentiment; Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) told
the Texas Tribune that Perry’s opponents will continue to support Planned
Parenthood’s arguments. “This represents a one-two punch to women’s
health, as the legislature’s cuts to family planning have already resulted in
the closure of numerous clinics,” Howard stated following the judge’s
ruling. The new WHP seems to lack the provider base to cover all qualified
women,” Howard said.

Junior sociology major Tia Robertson is offended by
the funding cuts. “They provide necessary service to all women, mostly those
who are of low income and lack health insurance. We should be looking at the
positive impact of Planned Parenthood instead of getting trapped into these
political agendas—agendas that actively harm the lives of individuals and fuels
the war on women,” said Robertson.

The ruling is the latest in a long line of
roadblocks that began with a law passed in the 2011 legislative session that
required the HHCP, which runs the Women’s Health Program, to ban medical
providers “affiliated” with abortion providers from participating in the program.

With this new legislation,
Texas is no longer eligible for federal funding for women’s health. Groups like
the Women’s Health Program previously received roughly 90 percent of their
funding from the Social Security Administration and other federal funding.

Planned Parenthood sued Texas
because the organization believed that the Texas law that cut its funding was
violating its rights to free speech. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
countered by stating that lawmakers may decide which organizations receive
state funds.

On Aug. 21, 2012 the Fifth
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state could terminate funding to these
health clinics because of their association with abortion, and a federal court
lifted an injunction that had protected funding until its trial in Oct.

In Oct. State Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary restraining order that allowed a
portion of the clinics to retain their funding.

On Dec. 31, 2012, a state district
judge refused to grant a restraining order that would have allowed them to
participate in the
Texas Women’s Health Program that launched
in place of the old Women’s Health Program on Jan. 1, 2013.

The Texas Tribune reported that Pete Schenkkan, a
lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, maintained that “because 48,000 of the
110,000 women participating in the program currently receive services from
Planned Parenthood clinics, excluding the organization’s affiliates from would
drastically affect women’s access to health services.”

“Some Planned Parenthood clinics — potentially
three of four clinics in Hidalgo County, for example — would be forced to close
immediately if they were not allowed to participate,” he said, “because the
majority of their patients are enrolled in the Women’s Health Program. All
Planned Parenthood clinics would have to begin charging for services currently
provided to poor women for free,” the report said.

“The law is that if a program changes its funding
source and is redressed under different rules, it’s a different program,” said Kristofer
Monson, the state’s lawyer. On Friday, he told the judge  that patients would retain the same
rights under the Texas Women’s Health Program, but because it is funded by the
state, Texas is allowed to dictate which providers are eligible to participate.

“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are
letting politics jeopardize health care access for women. This case isn’t about
Planned Parenthood — it’s about women like Marcy Balquinta who rely on us for
basic, preventive health care,” Ken S. Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned
Parenthood of Greater Texas, stated in a press release.

“Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned
Parenthood will be here for our patients. Our doors remain open today and
always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this
commitment to Texas women, their health and their wellbeing.” 

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