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Appeals Court Upholds Texas’s right to bar abortion business affiliates from participating in Women’s Health Program

by | Aug 22, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-Life Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Chalk another one up for the state of Texas as it defends a rule that disqualifies abortion business affiliates from participating in the state’s Women’s Health Program (WHP).

In the latest ruling the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel temporary injunction that was allowing the funding to continue pending an October trial on a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood.

“We appreciate the court’s ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women’s Health Program as quickly as possible,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state Health and Human Services Commission, in a statement.

As reported previously in NRL News Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that the new state rule violates federal law and is now phasing out support. Rather than bow to the Obama Administration pressure, pro-life Gov. Rick Perry vowed to make up for the lost federal funds.

“Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program,” said Gov. Perry. He described Tuesday’s ruling as “a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”

Last year Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott found that it violated no federal law or the U.S. Constitution to bar abortion providers or their affiliates from participating in WHP.  In February, the state adopted the rules which are now under challenge.

The 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.

Pro-abortionists challenged the rule in court.  In ruling in favor of nine Planned Parenthood affiliates, 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.” 

Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry Smith then overturned the stay on the rule only to be overturned by three-member a panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was the full fifth circuit which ruled in Texas’s favor on Tuesday.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic health care.”

Texas Attorney General Abbott countered that the decision “rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women’s Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion.”

Abbott added in a statement, “We are encouraged by today’s decision and will continue to defend the Women’s Health Program in court.”

When the preliminary injunction was first issued, Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, told NRL News Today that  Governor Perry and Texas Attorney General Abbott has consistently held that Texas will not continue the WHP if taxpayers are forced to subsidize the abortion industry.

“The Legislature redirected a large portion of so-called family planning funds away from the abortion industry and also passed other pro-life funding measures, and Planned Parenthood will stop at nothing to force its agenda on taxpayers and on low-income women,” she said.

Graham added, “Planned Parenthood is now playing politics with women’s health by risking the whole program by its advocacy of abortion. Attorney General Abbott is fully prepared to defend the intent of the Legislature by allowing participation in the WHP to providers and agencies that provide a full spectrum of health care services and that are not affiliated with abortion.”

Texas Right to Life very carefully oversaw the WHP renewal legislation to ensure that low-income women could find services at agencies that do not provide abortion, Graham explained. She said Planned Parenthood’s claims in the lawsuit about discrimination and a violation of equal protection if excluded from the WHP are absurd.

“If Planned Parenthood would stop committing abortion, they would be eligible for several public revenue streams,” Graham said. “We have full confidence in Attorney General Abbott to protect the taxpayers of Texas from directly and indirectly funding America’s largest abortion chain.”

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