Judge Refuses to Order Texas to Fund Planned Parenthood


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Judge refuses to order Texas to fund Planned Parenthood. Photo credit: Planned Parenthood

Judge refuses to order Texas to fund Planned Parenthood. Photo credit: Planned Parenthood

Under a Texas law passed in 2011, the state’s Health and Human Services Commission were instructed not to pay funds under the Women’s Health Program to pay medical providers who are “affiliated” with organizations that provide abortions.

The law took effect in March 2012.

Although Texas did not fund abortions, this law, the so-called “Affiliate Rule,” prevented funding for non-abortion medical services provided by providers who were merely affiliated with groups that provide abortion services.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is the largest of these so-called affiliates.

Although the Woman’s Health Program was run by the state of Texas, the federal government provided $9 for every $1 the state put in. After the affiliate rule became law, the federal government refused to provide the matching funds and a federal court held the affiliate rule was unconstitutional.

Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to create a new Woman’s Health Program (WHP) funded entirely by the state. The new program began on January 1, 2013. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas began legal action to force Texas to fund medical practitioners who provide services under the program and are affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Judge Refuses Injunction on Narrow Grounds

Planned Parenthood applied for a restraining order to prevent Texas from withholding funds to their affiliates. The application was heard on December 31, 2012, the day before the new program was to take effect.

In order to obtain injunctive relief, the applicant must show the case has merits as well as establish they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction or restraining order is not granted. Judge Gary Harger denied the application as an application for an injunction had already been scheduled for trial before another judge on January 11. In a one page ruling, Harger wrote, “I have denied the request for a temporary restraining order at this time. I did not find that there would be irreparable harm in waiting nine days for the injunction hearing.”

Texas Women’s Health Program

The program is run by Texas Health and Human Services. The WHP provides preventive health care services, including family planning, birth control and related matters to 110,000 low income women annually. Women who qualify are entitled to one medical examination a year that can include a pap smear, screening for breast and cervical cancer and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The program also includes counselling regarding birth control. The program does not and never did cover abortions or emergency birth control.

Of the number of women covered under the WHP, approximately 48,000 received medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics. These clinics did not perform abortions, but the clinics and their medical advisors, were affiliated with organizations that did provide terminations. Funding for those clinics has been terminated.

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