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Judge Lifts Temporary Injunction on Pro-Life Texas Law

by | May 2, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Judge Jerry Smith

Less than a day after U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a preliminary injunction to keep Texas from enforcing rules that disqualify abortion business affiliates from participating in the Women’s Health Program, Fifth Circuit Appeals Judge Jerry Smith granted Texas an emergency stay lifting Yeakel’s order.

“At this point, Planned Parenthood is not an eligible provider in the Women’s Health Program,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

In response to Yeakel’s decision yesterday, attorneys for the state of Texas wrote in papers filed with the court, “Although Planned Parenthood shares some of the program’s goals — such as promoting women’s health and reducing unwanted pregnancies — it also contravenes the very purpose of the program by actively promoting elective abortion.” They added, “Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have every right to hold that belief and advocate for elective abortion, but they are not entitled to receive taxpayer subsidies from a government program that is designed to encourage preventative birth control and discourage abortion.”

Planned Parenthood has dodged the ban on abortion providers or their affiliates participating in the Women’s Health Program (WHP) that has existed since 2005. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission was unsure of the rule’s constitutionality and failed to enforce it.

However last year Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion that found that it violated no federal law or the U.S. Constitution to bar these organizations from participating.

In February, the state again adopted rules. They goal was to enforce the rule that would bar Planned Parenthood health clinics that do not perform abortions from participating in the WHP because they are affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America which does provide abortions and advocates to keep abortion legal.

However, Judge Yeakel concluded the rule violated Planned Parenthood’s rights of free speech and association.

“By requiring plaintiffs to certify that they do not ‘promote’ elective abortions and that they do not ‘affiliate’ with entities that perform or promote elective abortions … Texas is reaching beyond the scope of the government program and penalizing plaintiffs for their protected conduct,” Yeakel wrote in his order.

The court battle has overlapped with the fight between the state and  the Obama Administration. Last December, the Obama Administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to renew $40 million in funding for Texas’ Women’s Health Program on the grounds that the ban did in fact violated federal law.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department ordered Texas to begin phasing out the program, which would no longer receive federal money. Texas AG Abbott has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the action. Meanwhile, Pro-life Gov. Rick Perry responded by vowing to find other sources of funding to continue the program.

Elizabeth Graham, the director of Texas Right to Life, agrees with Judge Smith’s analysis. “By launching this politically-motivated lawsuit against the state of Texas, Planned Parenthood has shown that they are not the champion of women’s health they say they are,” she told NRL News Today. “They are clearly willing to throw women’s health under the bus to maintain their government funding and further their abortion agenda. As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, if they can’t have the money, then nobody can.”

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Categories: PPFA