Finally some good news for women's health in Texas: a Federal judge ruled today to halt the State of Texas from implementing a rule to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program. Republicans passed a law last session specifically excluding the provider from the program. That law runs afoul of Federal statutes preventing the specific exclusion of qualified, licensed healthcare providers.
This is big news. Rick Perry pledged to end the Medicaid $9-to-$1 Federal match program solely to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating. He even said the state would set up its own program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood. To fund that, he said he would take money from seniors and children to pay for it, then make programs funding those Texans look for federal grants to make up the shortfall. Well, bad news Rick: you can't exclude Planned Parenthood from any program.
Today's ruling prevents Perry from excluding Planned Parenthood either via a federally funded or state funded program, since they are a qualified, licensed provider.
So if Texas sets up its own system, they still cannot exclude a provider. Texas Republicans must now decide if they want to end the entire Women's Health Program just to exclude one provider. How far will the Republican war on women go? Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of care within the Women's Health Program and consistently delivers high-quality care to low-income women. Over 40 percent of the women who receive services through WHP chose to rely on a Planned Parenthood health center.
Why are Texas Republicans trying to come between Texas women and their healthcare providers?
Planned Parenthood's press release is below:
Federal Judge in Texas Rules in Favor of Women's Health
Court Halts Exclusion of Planned Parenthood from Women's Health Program, Protecting Access to Preventive Care for Tens of Thousands of Women
Austin, TX – Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas applaud a federal court's ruling today to halt the state from implementing a rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program. Planned Parenthood and its supporters call on Governor Perry and the state to continue this lifesaving program.
“Tens of thousands of Texan women enrolled in the Women's Health Program rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, and access to birth control. For many women, we are the only doctor's visit they will have this year,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This ruling affirms what women have known all along: politics simply doesn't have a place in women's health.”
On April 11, Texas Planned Parenthood family planning providers who do not perform abortions filed suit against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in federal court in order to protect Texan women's access to basic, preventive health services. In his ruling today, Judge Lee Yeakel agreed with the Planned Parenthood family planning providers that the new rule is likely unconstitutional because it bars them from participating in the Women's Health Program based on their affiliation with legally and financially separate entities that engage in constitutionally protected conduct related to abortion.
Shockingly, Texas officials have suggested that they would rather end the entire Women's Health Program, eliminating basic, preventive health care for more than 100,000 low-income women, than have Planned Parenthood continue to participate in the program. Texan women remember that last year, Governor Perry eliminated two-thirds of the budget for women's preventive health care. As a result, more than 160,000 low-income women have been left without access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs and other health exams this year.
“We call on Governor Perry and the state to put Texan women first and set aside any vendetta they may have against Planned Parenthood,” said Patricio Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County. “No woman should ever have to fear being cut off from her doctor's care because of shortsighted political games.”
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas are being represented by attorneys from the Texas firm Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, and are joined by Planned Parenthood Federation of America attorneys in the suit.
“Legal action is always a last resort, but the state and Governor Perry's actions gave us no other option,” said Gonzales. “The health and well-being of our patients is our number-one priority. We hope that this decision will allow us to continue our lifesaving work of providing high-quality health care and cancer screenings to some of Texas' most vulnerable women.”