For a decade, this phrase was heard over and over as Speaker Pete Laney (D-Plainview) would call for votes on numerous bills as he presided as Speaker of the Texas House. During Speaker Laney’s tenure, the House Democratic caucus was heavily influenced by rural, white men, WD40s as they were nicknamed, members who would provide Democrats with a majority, but in exchange they would not be expected to march lock-step with the urban members that today overwhelmingly make up the Democratic caucus.
Before most votes, Speaker Laney reminded the Representatives to vote their districts, both as a precaution for their re-election and a reminder that they were there only to represent only the people who could vote for them. After Tuesday evening’s final vote on HB2 we saw five Democrats and one Republican split from their party's stance and vote their conscience. These six defectors leave us with a question: Were these members voting their districts or taking matters into their own hands?
We may criticize these members for breaking form and not falling in line, but for those of us in Austin, Houston, or the Metroplex: We are not their constituents. It is up to the voters they represent back home to determine if this vote was correct or not. This diary exists only to highlight who they are and to provide some background on these representatives.
It is worth noting, all the Democrats listed below, except for Rep. Herrero, are in what could be considered safe seats for the Democratic nominee in the next general election.
Read more about the 5 Democrats and 1 Republican including information on how President Obama's re-election campaign and Bill White's gubernatorial campaign performed in each member's district below the jump.
A Texas Senate Committee listened to testimony for and against Texas Senate Bill 1. This bill will effectively close all but five Texas centers that offer women legal abortions among other many important services. It restricted pregnancy terminations to 20 weeks even though some issues may arise that necessitates said eventuality. Simply put, it takes away many women's rights and gives the government control over a woman's body. Many anticipated that the anti-choice movement would have flooded the Texas Capitol on Monday since they ensured that the rally would occur late in the afternoon when it is cooler and when more people are off from work. The anti-choice movement was only able to get out one thousand or so persons. Inasmuch as they brought busses from out of state, they were unable to match the true grassroots nature of the progressive movement that is sweeping across Texas.
Just the week before, the pro-choice movement brought out over five thousand persons. They rallied with resolve. They vowed to make their votes heard in order to turn around the talibanization of Texas politics by Republicans which is also sweeping through Red States throughout the country.
The grassroots nature of this pro-choice movement is simply a symptom of a bigger grassroots movement. While the anti-choice movement has been top down, puppets led by puppeteers, this pro-choice movement has morphed into more, a democracy grassroots movement. The signs were about the Senate anti woman bill and much more. The discourse among attendees included promises to work to bring Texas from 51st in voting to number one, allowing all its diverse citizenry to force Texas to reflect the will of every Texan, Liberal, Progressive, Conservative, Black, White, Latino, Asian, and everyone in between.
Why am I here?
I am here because I am a woman.
I am here because I am a wife.
I am here because I am a mother.
I am here because I am one of the 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 55 that has had an abortion.
Why am I here?
I am here because the women of my son's generation deserve the same rights and freedom that I had.
I am here because my mother's generation and my sisters' generation were there for me.
I am here because if we don't stand up and make our voices heard, young women won't have those same rights and freedoms that I had.
Why am I here?
I am here because 116 women died of pregnancy related causes in Texas in 2011, but Zero died from safe, legal abortions.
I am here for the approximately 5000 women in America that died each year from unsafe abortions prior to Roe vs. Wade.
I am here for Becky Bell who died from an unsafe abortion at 17 years because she was afraid to ask for parental consent or get a judicial bypass.
I am here for all the women who will die from unsafe illegal abortions if this legislation passes.
Why am I here?
I am here because women are being bullied.
I am here because women are being shamed.
I am here because our doctors are being murdered.
I am here because our clinics are being bombed.
Why I am here?
I am here because laws like this one are closing our health care centers.
I am here because laws like this will make it harder for women to get the care they need.
I am here so women in Texas won't have to drive hundreds of miles to see a doctor.
Why am I here?
I am here because as Representative Senfronia Thompson said, "We will not be bullied."
I am here because I am a woman and we will not be bullied.
Y'all, just because Attorney General Greg Abbott's lawyers happened to directly compare Planned Parenthood and terrorist organizations, that so totally does NOT mean that he thinks that funding the healthcare provider to 130,000 low income Texas women is equivalent to funding state-sponsored terrorism. (Except that's kind of exactly what he said.) Abbott's team clarified later that that's not what the AG meant. Sadly, Abbott gets the abortion-terrorism link backward, as it's the domestic terrorists here in America that set their sights on ending abortion by the most violent means possible.
The quote in question comes from the filing by the AG's office to the 5th Circuit for an emergency stay blocking the injunction granted in Federal Court to stop the state from blocking Planned Parenthood as a qualified provider in the Texas Women's Health program, whether state- or federally funded. (The stay was lifted last Friday, yay!) Here's the section from the AG's office filings that makes the Planned Parenthood / terrorism connection:
"Planned Parenthood does not provide any assurance that the tax subsidies it receives from the Women's Health Program have not been used directly or indirectly to subsidize its advocacy of elective abortion. Nor is it possible for Planned Parenthood to provide this assurance."
"Money is fungible, and taxpayer subsidies -- even if 'earmarked' for nonabortion activities -- free up other resources for Planned Parenthood to spend on its mission to promote elective abortions ... (because '[m]oney is fungible,' First Amendment does not prohibit application of federal material-support statute to individuals who give money to 'humanitarian' activities performed by terrorist organizations)."
Got that? Abbott says that giving federal or state money to Planned Parenthood frees up their private money for abortions, just like giving money to terrorist organizations for humanitarian causes frees up their other money for terrorism.
"In a state that leads the nation in the number of uninsured -- where one in four Texas women lack health insurance, and women face the third highest rate of cervical cancer -- I think it is appalling to make such a comparison when Planned Parenthood works every day to keep women healthy," said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Sufficient outrage was evidently raised by Abbott's callous remark that the OAG felt it necessary to walk it back. A spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, Jerry Strickland, said state attorneys were not comparing Planned Parenthood to a terrorist organization. They were just citing a Supreme Court case that happened to be about a terrorist organization. Uh, right. It's just coincidence that the state's legal filings happen to draw a direct comparison between PP and terrorist organizations even if you say it doesn't. Gotcha. Strickland said, "Texas did not state -- and does not believe -- that Planned Parenthood is a terrorist organization or comparable to one. Period."
Greg Abbott has made clear that he would rather shut down the entire Women's Health Program and all of the good it does for the women of Texas than allow Planned Parenthood to participate, and continue serving 130,000 women in Texas. He'd rather shut the whole thing down than let women have access to pap smears and breast cancer screenings and annual check-ups.
Ironically, Abbott gets the terrorism-abortion link all wrong. American terrorist organizations actually seek to harm abortion providers. There's a long list of murdered abortion providers, not to mention those who have been on the receiving ends of death threats. Domestic terrorist organizations such as the Army of God and individuals like the man who gunned down George Tiller in church -- they're actual terrorists who carry out brutal violence in the name of stopping abortion. (What ever happened to just praying to end it?) It's actually the anti-abortion zealots that are the terrorists here, Abbott.
Other people might make a comparison between governments that seek to deny women their basic freedoms and totalitarian regimes prone to terrorism, but I'm specifically not making that comparison here. That kind of rhetoric only distracts from the gravity of Abbott's efforts to deny 130,000 women access to the healthcare provider of their choice through his partisan war against Planned Parenthood and women's health in Texas.
I don't know about the rest of you, but backing down from this statement makes me think Abbott's going soft in his personal war on women, am I right? Come on, Greg! If you think Planned Parenthood is a terrorist organization, just say so! After all, you do have your 2014 Republican primary bid for Governor to think about.
In the meantime, Abbott does seem to be losing his legal battles to block Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program:on Friday the 5th Circuit lifted their temporary stay and will allow the original injunction -- the one that says that the state can't block PP from the WHP -- to go forward while there is a full trial on the issue.
I hope I wasn't the sole woman in Texas tuned in to last night's US Senate debate. The Republican war on women was on full display as candidates battled to take the most regressive stance on women's health issues. What was clear from the Republican candidates' answers is that all four are staunchly out of touch with what women and Texans think about Planned Parenthood and the Women's Health Program.
As my colleague Ben Sherman reported earlier, the debate was a fairly staid format in which the four leading Republican candidates (David Dewhurst, Ted Cruz, Craig James and Tom Leppert) and the two leading Democratic candidates (Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard) sat down for a one-on-one with the moderator before engaging in some short Q&A and a bit of brief back-and-forth on the issues of the day. It was during the Q&A that two questions in particular emphasized the degree to which women's reproductive rights and basic access to healthcare have become a political football kicked around like so much special teams practice.
Candidates were asked how they plan to get women to vote for them, and to take a stand on a woman's right to choose. Evidently the Republicans' answer was to patronize women, deny them access to healthcare, and reiterate that women can't make their own medical choices. The responses from the Republicans ranged from laughable to infuriating, as all emphasized their hatred of Planned Parenthood and desire to defund the program that provides services to 40% of women enrolled in Texas's Women's Health Program.
Dewhurst stated that he was asking "all good Republicans to vote for me," which I guess means he's Ok with independent and Democratic women abandoning him over his whacktacular views on women's issues. He emphasized his work to both defund Planned Parenthood and find state money to continue the WHP without the provider (which is in violation of Federal rules regarding exclusion of qualified providers, but NBD, right?). Leppert followed up that he's also against funding Planned Parenthood, and has strong anti-choice viewpoints. He then actually gave a better answer than the rest of his knuckle-dragging Republican brothers when he noted that he was raised by a single mom and that women were concerned about the economy and job opportunities. Then he said something about women being concerned about career politicians? Eh, get your talking points in where you can, I guess. James emphasized his pro-life credentials. I didn't really take many other notes since his voice makes chunks of my brain drip out of my ears. Sorry.
Ted Cruz had perhaps the most laughable and awful answer, as he claimed that "a significant majority" of women are pro-life. Unfortunately for Cruz, the facts say otherwise: a Rasmussen poll (yes, Ras the Republican polling firm) conducted last month found that 51 percent of women identify as pro-choice, and only 40 percent pro-life. The pro-life tally dropped 3 points since Ras's previous January poll. Thanks for telling us what we ladyfolks think, Ted! Unfortunately you're wrong.
On the Democratic side, our candidates did women right on this issue, standing up for our ability to make informed medical decisions and choose our own healthcare decisions. Sean Hubbard, who had a solid debate performance on the whole, said that it was "embarrassing" that we're still discussing whether or not women can make their own healthcare decisions. He noted that his wife had gone to Planned Parenthood earlier in her life not for abortions, but cancer screenings. He said that Planned Parenthood provides "invaluable services to low-income women, women with no health insurances." Sadler also made clear that he supports choice and Planned Parenthood, and disagreed with the state's efforts to defund the entire Women's Health Program just because certain individuals don't like Planned Parenthood. "It's the wrong position that we're taking as a state."
Let's be really clear: Republicans' opposition to Planned Parenthood is out of touch with what Texas voters want. A PPP poll conducted in March showed that 59% of likely Texas voters oppose Governor Perry's efforts to kick the provider out of the Women's Health Program. Planned Parenthood itself enjoys enviably high support in public opinion polls. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 53% of voters nationally oppose cutting off federal government funding to Planned Parenthood. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ound that 53 percent of Americans found it "mostly or totally unacceptable" to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventive health services. Republicans are going against the wishes of voters in Texas and nationally in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
The participating candidates -- all male, as the females in both parties are apparently not considered viable candidates worthy of inclusion -- were also asked where they stand on reproductive choice. Unsurprisingly this broke down along party lines as well, with the men emphatically opposing a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, and the Democrats supporting it. Ladies, gird your loins, because one of these people will be voting on Supreme Court nominees. Cruz reiterated that he's strongly pro-life, from "conception to natural death." I'm unsure how that reconciles with the death penalty. Dewhurst said he's always been pro-life, and bragged about passing some of the worst anti-choice legislation of the last decade. Leppert said he was pro-life because of his faith. Perhaps the best answer was from Craig James of all people, who said that he was 100% pro-life, and declared that the morality in our country in decline! People used to open doors for women, and say "sir" and "ma'am!" He didn't mention anything about killing five hookers, instead immediately retiring to his fainting couch to clutch his pearls.
The Democrats, again, were a beacon of sanity in this portion of the debate. Hubbard stated clearly, "I trust women to make the right decisions about their reproductive health. A group of men in Washington, DC or Austin should not make decisions for them." Amen! Sadler noted that he is a person of faith, a Christian, and that he thinks a woman has the right to make this decision for herself, with her own counsel. He made clear that for him, there's room in his faith to disagree on this issue. It was a solid, nuanced answer.
Women of Texas: the four leading Republican candidates for US Senate are all vehemently opposed to your right to choose, your ability to get healthcare from Planned Parenthood, and your knowledge of whether or not you can make your own reproductive decisions. Good times!
Bad news for Tina Cannon: Texans for Lawsuit Refom doesn't tend to play in Austin City Council elections.
Tina Cannon, a challenger in Place 5, continues to say troubling things about her opposition to Austin's landmark Crisis Pregnancy Center ordinance. The ordinance, which passed unanimously, requires CPC's to disclose if there are no licensed medical professionals on site. As we previously reported, Cannon attacked Spelman for his work to pass the ordinance at the RECA luncheon, under a guise of opposing lawsuits that "cost taxpayer money."
In response to our post, Cannon reiterated her opposition to the CPC ordinance on her website:
I think the CPC ordinance is a mistake for two reasons. The constitutionality issue I've already discussed above. In addition, I find it "curious" that the Professor feels that women are ignorant on the subject of choice. He actually believes that women don't know what to expect (and not expect) when they walk into a faith based pregnancy center vs. a Planned Parenthood. Really??? Assuming that we don't know the difference is insulting to all women, regardless of their socio-economic or ethnic background.
Eeek! Ok. Let's rebut this.
The new ordinance was written to stand up in court. It was crafted in light of recent court cases, specifically to address the legal issues raised by the Catholic Diocese and the CPC's. It was written to stand up in court.
The excellent lawyers representing the City are working pro bono, so no taxpayer dollars are being "wasted" standing up for our pro-choice values. Thank you, excellent female attorneys fighting for the rights of women of Austin!
Unfortunately, Cannon is wrong about CPC's. Many women don't know the difference between CPC's and true medical facilities, because the CPC's spend millions on advertising in order to appear more "medical." They deliberately draw in pregnant women only to fail to inform them of all of their choices, and intimidate them into not seeking an abortion.
CPC's provide women with medically incorrect information to scare them into not choosing to terminate a pregnancy. On NARAL's website, they write: "Despite a wealth of reputable research that prove otherwise, CPCs continue to claim that abortion causes an increased risk for breast cancer, affects future fertility, and causes long-term psychological effects. The majority of CPCs are also against the use of hormonal birth control, strongly encourage abstinence until marriage, and, in some cases, provide misinformation about the safety and reliability of birth control."
This ordinance can provide a model for other cities and communities looking to inform women about what CPC's are up to, and prevent them from intimidating and misleading women.
Anyone who is as pro-choice as Cannon claims she is should examine the facts about CPC's and the terrible tricks they pull on pregnant women before opposing this ordinance.
In the Austin American-Statesman, Cannon reiterated her opposition to the CPC ordinance and the payday lending ordinance, which regulates these unscrupulous lenders. Payday lenders charge brutally high interest rates -- some as high as 300%! -- and trap low-income Austinites further into a cycle of debt and poverty from which they often cannot escape. Cannon said,
"It assumes the woman who walks into a Catholic organization won't understand the church's positions ... and that people who use payday lenders don't understand what they're doing," Cannon said. "He's legislating from the dais instead of paying attention to his basic job."
I wish Cannon were right, and that all women knew the truth about CPC's. The fact is, many don't. Many don't even realize that places such as the "Austin Pregnancy Resource Center" and the "South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center" are actually ideological agents hell-bent on exercising an anti-woman, anti-choice agenda. As for the payday lenders, they're unscrupulous enterprises that prey on our vulnerable and needy populations, and many people indeed do not know what they're getting into when they walk in the door.
Folks, if you support the CPC ordinance or the payday lending ordinance, please let your friends know about this before they vote.
It's back to normal here in Texas as the courts hand down yet another anti-woman decision. Late last night, Republican Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th Circuit reversed US District Judge Lee Yeakel's decision to prevent the State of Texas from blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program. Yeakel's decision made clear that the State could not block Planned Parenthood from either a federally or state-funded Women's Health Program. This was a big -- and evidently, temporary -- win for the womenfolk of Texas, who for a few brief hours regained access to the provider that sees 40% of WHP participants.
After receiving yesterday's verdict Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a request for an emergency stay to halt the healthcare provider from participating in the program. Unsurprisingly, Judge Smith granted Abbott's stay. From The Statesman:
The stay apparently means that the state does not have to reimburse Planned Parenthood for patients treated as part of the Women's Health Program, which offers contraceptives, health screenings and other care to low-income women.
Under a state rule adopted in February, all program participants had to certify by today that they do not promote abortion or affiliate with organizations that perform or promote abortions. But Yeakel ruled Monday that the rule violated Planned Parenthood's First Amendment rights and placed thousands of women in danger of losing vital health care.
What happens now, and what does this mean?
Planned Parenthood has until 5:00 pm today to respond to the motion, at which point the order will be revisited. This means that while Abbott's requested emergency stay is in effect, Yeakel's original injunction (preventing the state from excluding Planned Parenthood) is not. The State of Texas is free to enforce the affiliate rule, blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in the WHP because they are affiliated with (gasp! horror! clutch pearls! fainting couch!) abortion providers. The 5th Circuit's emergency stay basically overturns Yeakel's original injunction until such time as the 5th Circuit revisits the stay and lifts the stay putting the injunction back into effect -- i.e. upholding Yeakel's original ruling that no public Women's Health Program can exclude a qualified, licensed provider just because Republicans don't like them -- or until there is a full trial before judge Yeakel and he issues a final order on the matter.
What are the legal issues here?
I asked a lawyer to help me out with this one. The State was granted the stay because they claim they will be irreparably harmed if they are forced to include Planned Parenthood as a provider in the program. Lawyers for the State of Texas essentially contend that they cannot violate state law (the affiliate rule, blocking Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood alone from participating in any Women's Health Program, whether federally or state funded) in order to continue the program constitutionally. (Various federal rules and interpretations of them make clear that a state cannot deliberately exclude a provider just because they don't like them, as long as they're otherwise qualified, licensed, etc.)
The State of Texas is claiming that they will be forced to shut down the entire Women's Health Program (again, whether funded by Medicaid or state dollars, of which we have none, but that's another problem) unless the injunction is stayed -- i.e. unless they're allowed to keep excluding Planned Parenthood.
This legal reasoning doesn't pass the smell test -- there has been a rule in place since 2003 banning abortion providers from receiving other Family Planning dollars, and the state does not seem to have suffered the grievous injury they allege will happen if they have to reimburse Planned Parenthood for the cancer screenings and contraception they have been providing to women since the inception of the Women's Health Program and in other family planning programs. All of these rules were enacted in 2005 at the start of the WHP, so why is it now, 7 years later, that this is such a friggin' emergency? The state doesn't seem to have suffered irreparable harm over the last 7 years by including Planned Parenthood in the program. So why will the next 6 months cause so much harm?
(Just for fun, picture Sid Miller and Dan Patrick running around, screaming about the social ills of women getting breast exams and pap smears. The horror! The horror! I digress.)
The State claims that Planned Parenthood can simply replace the public funds with private donations and keep providing services to 40% of the women who participate in the WHP. However, the State also claims that because Planned Parenthood didn't post an appeal bond, they can't pay the State back for damages since they don't have any money. What? Planned Parenthood doesn't need state funds to give women cancer screenings because they have a lot of money, but they don't have any money to pay back the state?
What is UP with the 5th Circuit?!
It's no surprise that Republican activist judge Jerry Smith granted Abbott's request. If Smith's name sounds familiar, it's because last month he threw a temper-tantrum after President Obama stated that it would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court -- a group of appointed judges -- to throw out a law passed by a democratically elected body. POTUS was, of course, referring to the Affordable Care Act.
The 5th Circuit court, which hears federal appeals from parts of Louisana, Mississippi, and Texas, is considered to be one of the most ideologically conservative federal appellate courts in the country. We've previously profiled Chief Judge Edith Jones, an extreme anti-choice zealot who has called for the SCOTUS to review Roe v Wade in the hopes of coming up with a reversed decision. Y'all, this is the court that ordered a rape victim to pay over $40,000 in legal fees to her school district and forced her to cheer for her rapist in a sporting event. Stay classy!
What's Next for the WHP?
Planned Parenthood has until 5 p.m. today to respond. At the heart of the matter are two diametrically opposed laws: the federal law that makes it illegal to exclude a specific qualified provider from a public program because a state doesn't like them, and the law passed by Texas specifically excluding Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program because they're affiliated with abortion providers.
Key take-away: Texas Republicans are willing to end the entire Women's Health Program just to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating. How far will they go, and will the courts be able to stop them? That remains to be seen.
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."
For a copy of the order granting the preliminary injunction, please click here. Planned Parenthood's complaint is available online here.
It was a rally as diverse as the people of our great state.
Yesterday, throngs of women and men from around Texas gathered at the Capitol to protest the ongoing Republican war on women. At the state and national level, Republicans are passing heaps of anti-women and anti-family legislation, from mandatory sonograms to draconian cuts to public education funding. Here in Texas, Republicans are trying to end the Medicaid Women's Health Program after slashing 73 million from the state's own family planning budget. And in the Senate, 31 Republican men voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act!
It's as if they don't think women are paying attention, or don't think women will bother voting this fall.
Well, the folks rallying in Austin yesterday disagreed. Coming from Houston, Hidalgo County, and everywhere in between, the crowd demonstrated that word is getting around about the Republicans' anti-woman agenda. Best of all, it wasn't just a bunch of women at the event -- the diverse crowd encompassed every age group, sex, ethnicity, geography, and sexuality present in our state.
The speakers fired up the crowd, starting with State Representative Dawnna Dukes. The Austin legislator has been at the center of the backlash to support for women's reproductive rights, as the Catholic Diocese forbade her from speaking at her own parish during a service recognizing Black History Month. Dukes isn't backing down from her support of women's rights, and has been setting pro-choice crowds on fire all spring. Congressman Lloyd Doggett also made an appearance, tying together the Republican Party's comprehensive anti-woman agenda, from women's basic healthcare and reproductive rights to education funding and fair pay.
More photos and stories from women who came from across Texas below the jump.
Some good news from the ongoing Republican war on women's health: today Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit to block Texas's unconstitutional rule that excludes Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program.
From the Planned Parenthood media release:
Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission adopted the rule excluding Planned Parenthood health centers, which makes the state ineligible to receive Medicaid funding. The rule could deprive tens of thousands of Texan women of preventive health services, as more than 40 percent rely on Planned Parenthood for critical health care through the program.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin today asks the court to enter a preliminary injunction that would stop enforcement of the unconstitutional rule excluding Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Women's Health Program. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, represented by attorneys from the Texas firm Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, challenge the rule as violating their constitutional rights because it imposes an unconstitutional condition on their participation in WHP. The lawsuit also claims that the rule violates Texas state law because the Health and Human Services Commission overstepped its authority in adopting a rule that conflicts with the purpose of the laws that created the program.
Planned Parenthood has been fighting back hard against Rick Perry and Texas Republicans' efforts to end women's healthcare in Texas. Republicans are so desperate to defund the provider that they passed a rule preventing federal Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood, the #1 provider of services to women enrolled in the Women's Health Program. Medicaid provided a 9-to-1 match of federal dollars for every one state dollar spent. The program saved the state $42 million per year by enabling women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, federal rules prohibit banning a qualified provider from participating in the Medicaid WHP. Planned Parenthood is a qualified provider, so Secretary of Health and Human Services had no choice but to deny Texas the funds. As a result, Perry has turned to his usual schtick -- blaming the Feds and Obama -- for shutting down the program, when in reality it is his own administration that supported the illegal effort to block Planned Parenthood from participating in the program.
However, Perry's desire to score cheap political points on the backs of Texas women resulted in his defunding the Medicaid WHP, promising instead to pay for it in-state. First Perry said he would find the money elsewhere in the Health & Human Services budget, jeopardizing the health of our children and seniors. Now he's claiming that he can get other Federal money to fund other programs, and shift state funds over to recreate the WHP here in Texas. He's playing a reckless shell game with the women's health program just to impress his GOP base.
Don't forget, Perry also signed a budget that slashed $73 million from the state's family planning budget, causing many clinics to lay off workers, reduce hours, or shut down entirely. That first cut caused 180,000 Texas women to lose access to family planning. Ending the Medicaid program would cut off access to another 130,000 women, meaning that in a short period of time.
Let's not forget what Planned Parenthood does each year, as the most efficient provider of services in the Medicaid WHP. Planned Parenthood's 65 health centers in Texas provide over 100,000 cervical cancer screenings, 120,000 breast cancer screenings, and 440,931 tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections annually.
In trying to shut down Planned Parenthood for political reasons, Rick Perry is putting the lives of Texas women at risk. Women are lucky to have Planned Parenthood on our side, fighting back to make sure that we have access to affordable, quality healthcare.