Late last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to rehear constitutional arguments on Texas’ plan to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s public health program for low-income women. Via a motion for a rehearing en banc, Planned Parenthood asked for the full court to review an August decision by a three-judge panel that allowed the state to lift Planned Parenthood’s temporary injunction and immediately begin to defund the women’s health provider.
“Today's ruling affirms yet again that in Texas the Women's Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion,” Governor Perry said in response to the court’s refusal.
However, Planned Parenthood received a last minute reprieve the next day when the district court judge in Austin issued a temporary restraining order based on new claims brought by the organization under the state’s constitution.
Rick Perry was none too pleased. He responded by telling reporters, “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 on 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. In Texas, we've chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail."
“Planned Parenthood has been in Texas for more than 75 years, and we're not going anywhere. We are here for the patients who rely on us and we will continue to evaluate every possible option to protect the health of our patients," responded Kenneth Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “This case has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the Texas women who turn to us every day. Politics should never come between a woman and her health care, but in this decision, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, it appears it has.”
Over the 2011 legislative session, Texas Republicans slashed reproductive health funding from $111 million to $36 million, and created a three tiered funding system to put Planned Parenthood last in line to receive funds, a scheme that Ohio Republicans are attempting to imitate. They also passed a law to bar “affiliates” of organizations that provide abortions (basically any health clinic that bears the Planned Parenthood name) from receiving Medicaid reimbursement for their services, even if they do not provide abortions.
The federal government has charged Texas with impermissibly violating the rights of Medicaid patients and will pull federal funding of the state’s women’s health program if the ban is allowed to remain. 90% of the funds for Texas's current women’s health program come from the federal government.
To counter the federal government’s threats, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission plans to launch a new women’s health program funded exclusively by the state. It will cost Texas taxpayers $200 million over the next five years to fund the state’s program.
Not only will Texas’ new program cost Texan taxpayers, but a new study by George Washington University found that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers in the state will cause "tens of thousands of low-income Texas women could lose access to affordable family planning services and to other women’s health services."
What on earth could Perry be thinking? Texas already has a shortage of health care providers. Many counties in Texas are reporting that the elimination of their local Planned Parenthood will leave women with few options, not only for low-cost family planning, but also for primary care. Though Texas Republicans argue otherwise, Texas’ current health care infrastructure is not able to support these drastic cuts in women’s health providers.
Just when we thought the saga was over, this past week Texas Democrat Rep. Lon Burnam has introduced a bill in the Texas assembly to reverse the ban on Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. Burnam railed against Governor Perry, “Texas is willing to leave millions in federal tax dollars on the table and deny health care for thousands of women just because the governor has an opposition to a specific nonprofit organization.”
My fellow pundits on PolicyMic have outlined the major misconceptions conservatives have about Planned Parenthood as well as how family planning actually prevents abortions and how women who are denied abortions are more likely to end up on welfare.
Governor Perry and Texas Republicans are playing a dangerous game with women’s health. Every single “Planned Parenthood defunding” law passed in the states has been blocked in the courts. And while Texas spends taxpayer funding defending a law they already know is unconstitutional, 50,000 low-income Texas women will be without the reproductive health care they need.