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Texas can cut Planned Parenthood clinic funding, judges rule

August 21, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Protesters rally against the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Austin, Texas, March 8, 2011.
Protesters rally against the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Austin,… (Austin American-Statesman,…)

Texas can cut off funds for Planned Parenthood clinics before a trial concerning the legality of its ban on funding organizations tied to abortion providers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge's temporary injunction that had protected the funding pending an October trial.

After Texas banned funds for groups linked to abortion providers, some Planned Parenthood clinics sued, arguing the law violates free speech. The clinics provide family planning and health services to poor women but do not perform abortions.

The clinics receive funding through the Texas Women's Health Program, or WHP, run with $5 million in state money and $35 million from the federal government. But federal officials withdrew their contribution earlier this year when the state moved to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics.

On Tuesday, the three-judge panel ruled that Texas can restrict state funding, citing the affiliation of the clinics as promoting abortion.

“Texas’ authority to directly regulate the content of its own program necessarily includes the power to limit the identifying marks that program grantees are authorized to use. Identifying marks represent messages,” the judges wrote. “If the organizations participating in the WHP are authorized to use marks associated with the pro-abortion point of view—like the Planned Parenthood mark—Texas’ choice to disfavor abortion is eviscerated, just as it would be if the organizations promoted abortion through pamphlets or video presentations.”

Gov. Rick Perry called the ruling “a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”

“Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program,” Perry said in a statement.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission “will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women’s Health Program as quickly as possible,” spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood officials expressed dismay, saying Texas was jeopardizing the health of poor women.

 “It is shocking that once again it appears that politics is getting in the way of women receiving access to basic healthcare,” Melaney A. Linton, president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Inc., said in a statement. “Today’s ruling allows the state to deny low-income, uninsured Texas women healthcare from their trusted provider--Planned Parenthood…The state’s ongoing efforts jeopardize the health of tens of thousands of Texas women.”

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