Planned Parenthood May Beat Texas Funding Ban

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – Texas cannot use the affiliation of Planned Parenthood with abortion providers to remove it from a health care program for low-income women, a judge ruled.
     Travis County Judge Stephen Yelenosky granted seven Planned Parenthood affiliates a temporary injunction on Thursday.
     The affiliates sued the Texas Health & Human Services Commission and Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek in Travis County Court on Oct. 26. Another Travis County court officer, Judge Amy Clark Meachum, granted the affiliates a temporary restraining order that same day.
     The complaint marked Planned Parenthood’s latest challenge to a set of administrative rules that the Texas Legislature passed in 2011. The rules bar health care providers who participate in the state’s mostly federally funded Women’s Health Program from performing or promoting abortions, or from affiliating with entities that do.
     The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services responded by pulling federal funding from the state program altogether. Texas sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the lost funding and will go to trial in March 2013.
     In a letter to the parties’ counsel, Yelenosky wrote that the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, “by its rule, has defined ‘affiliate with entities’ in a manner that has led the federal government to determine that the Texas Women’s Health Program is out of compliance with federal law and to make federal matching money unavailable to the state on a date certain in the near future.”
     But Texas law prohibits any provision that cuts off federal matching funds to the Women’s Health Program, the Planned Parenthood affiliates argued.
     Yelenosky found that “the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claim that the rule is inconsistent with the instructions of the Texas Legislature.”
     U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel enjoined the rules as challenged in a parallel federal complaint, but the 5th Circuit vacated the injunction. The New Orleans-based court refused to grant a rehearing en banc last month.
     Gov. Rick Perry took credit when Planned Parenthood moved to abstain and dismiss its constitutional claims in the federal case without prejudice on Nov. 6.
     “Planned Parenthood has finally acknowledged what we have known from the very beginning – their constitutional challenge is flawed on its face,” Perry said in a statement Thursday. “Venue shopping and courtroom sleight-of-hand in no way helps the women of Texas. We see their stalling tactic for what it is – yet another attempt to unashamedly defy the will of Texas voters and taxpayers.”

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