Texas judge OKs ban on Planned Parenthood funding

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas can cut off funding to Planned Parenthood’s family planning programs for poor women, a state judge ruled Monday.

Judge Gary Harger said that Texas may exclude otherwise qualified doctors and clinics from receiving state funding if they advocate for abortion rights, attorney general spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.

The state has long banned the use of state funds for abortion, but had continued to reimburse Planned Parenthood clinics for providing basic health care to poor women through the state’s Women’s Health Program. The program provides check-ups and birth control to 110,000 poor women a year, and Planned Parenthood clinics were treating 48,000 of them.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit to stop the rule will still go forward, but the judge decided Monday that the ban may go into effect for now. In seeking a temporary restraining order, Planned Parenthood’s patients could have continued to see their current doctors until a final decision was made.

“We are pleased the court rejected Planned Parenthood’s latest attempt to skirt state law,” Bean said. “The Texas Attorney General’s office will continue to defend the Texas Legislature’s decision to prohibit abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving taxpayer dollars through the Women’s Health Program.”

Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said he brought the lawsuit on behalf of poor women who depend on its clinics.

“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women,” Lambrecht said. “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 well-being.”

Planned Parenthood has brought three lawsuits over Texas’ so-called “affiliate rule,” arguing it violates the constitutional rights of doctors and patients while also contradicting existing state law.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has spent the last nine months preparing to implement the affiliate rule. But federal officials warned it violated the Social Security Act and cut off federal funds for the Women’s Health Program, prompting the commission to start a new program using only state money.

State officials have also scrambled to sign up new doctors and clinics to replace Planned Parenthood. Women who previously went to Planned Parenthood clinics will now have to use the agency’s web site to find a new state-approved doctor.

On Friday, HHSC officials acknowledged they are unsure whether the thousands of new doctors can pick up Planned Parenthood’s caseload in all parts of the state.

“I vehemently disagree with the state’s efforts to blacklist a qualified provider and, thereby, interfere with a woman’s right to choose her own provider,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. “I will be submitting a letter to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, requesting a list of approved providers to gauge the outreach of the new program, and ensure that all qualified women throughout the state have access to its services.”

Another hearing is scheduled with a different judge for Jan. 11, where Planned Parenthood will again ask for an injunction to receive state funding.

More in Local News

Bicycle tour raises money for dialysis patients

Volunteers also shared health information and put together care packages for homeless women.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Flooding still a concern on Snohomish River

Flood warning in effect until Monday afternoon for Monroe and Tuesday morning for Snohomish.

Boeing reaches out to schools

Company employees helped Everett students at recent reading and Manufacturing Day events.

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

Theft lands former insurance salesman 50 days in jail

A former insurance salesman is expected to report to jail… Continue reading

Expect river levels to keep rising, though sun is on the way

Some could crest above minor and moderate flood levels.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Most Read