Planned Parenthood Can Sue Texas Over Funding

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - Planned Parenthood can sue Texas over its exclusion from a state program that provides healthcare to poor women, a Texas appeals court ruled.
     Several Planned Parenthood groups sued Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek in Travis County District Court in 2012. Planned Parenthood groups filed a similar lawsuit in federal court.
     Planned Parenthood argued that the state Legislature formed the Texas Women's Health Plan in retaliation for the federal government refusing to fund its predecessor, the Women's Health Program (WHP).
     Federal officials cut funding after Texas tried to exclude Planned Parenthood from the WHP, a program Planned Parenthood had participated in since its inception in 2005, according to the complaint.
     Texas later asked the 3rd District Court of Appeals to dismiss the lawsuit in state court, arguing that Planned Parenthood has no standing to sue and that state officials have sovereign immunity.
     On Wednesday, a three-judge panel with the Austin-based appeals court disagreed. Writing for the court, Justice Bob Pemberton said the groups have standing to assert claims.
     "Whatever the merits of their claims might ultimately prove to be, the Planned Parenthood entities have sufficiently demonstrated the minimum threshold interest that confers standing under the Texas Constitution to assert the claims in court," he wrote in the 40-page ruling.
     Pemberton also noted that the Administrative Procedure Act allows declaratory judgment actions against the state when the plaintiff challenges a rule that allegedly interferes with or impairs a "legal right or privilege," as Planned Parenthood claims.
     However, the appeals court dismissed the groups' claims for declaratory relief under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act because they "have not asserted any ripe UDJA claims that are
     not redundant" of their APA claims.
     Also Wednesday, a three-judge panel with the 3rd District Court of Appeals dismissed another lawsuit filed by several Planned Parenthood groups in 2012 over being defunded under the WHP.
     The panel agreed with the state that it should be dismissed because the case is moot.
     "There is presently no live controversy concerning the now-defunct Medicaid WHP, and any decision on the merits of [the groups'] claims cannot affect rights or interests they could possess in this now-nonexistent program," Pemberton wrote.