Six Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Inc. affiliates are asking a state court judge to bar enforcement of regulations prohibiting them from getting government money to provide health care for low-income women.
Judge Stephen Yelenosky in Austin is set to hear arguments today from Planned Parenthood's lawyers and from the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The state opposes the request to restore funding cut last year because of the group's association with legally separate Planned Parenthood entities that provide abortion services.
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The affiliates have told the court they provided basic health services other than abortion to almost half of the more than 100,000 women who were enrolled in the state's federally funded Women's Health Program, which ended on Dec. 31 and was replaced by a wholly state-funded plan the next day.
"By specifically applicable statutory law, defendants are expressly denied the authority to exclude the Planned Parenthood plaintiffs" from the new Texas Women's Health Program, the affiliates said in a Dec. 28 court filing.
The affiliates have said they, and the women they serve, will be irreparably harmed if access to funding isn't restored.
President Barack Obama's administration last year said it was withdrawing federal funding for the former Texas program after state lawmakers created the regulation blocking participation by organizations associated with providers of elective abortions.
Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, together with Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek in October announced the creation of the state-funded Women's Health Program, or Texas WHP.
"Governor Perry made clear Texas law will not allow a program that includes abortion providers or their affiliates like Planned Parenthood to be providers in the program," his administration said then in a statement.
"Any lawsuit filed to challenge the Texas WHP will kill the program, and would be responsible for denying these important health services to the low-income women of Texas," the Perry administration said.
In court filings, Planned Parenthood has called that provision a "poison pill."
The new women's health program provides yearly exams, family planning and birth-control options for low-income women, according to the state's Health and Human Services Commission.
The Planned Parenthood groups' combined annual WHP reimbursement had been about $13 million, they said in a filing last month. Loss of that money will be "devastating" and would force facilities to close, they said.
"There is no Texas statute that requires a primary-care program run by the Department of State Health Services using Texas money to accept the entity plaintiffs as service providers," lawyers for the state said in a Jan. 7 court filing.
The court denied the affiliates' request for a temporary restraining order on Dec. 31, the day before the new statutory scheme took effect.
The case is Planned Parenthood v. Janek, D-1-GN-12-003887, District Court of Travis County (Austin).