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State Changes Rules for Planned Parenthood

Another twist in the assault on family-planning clinics

By Jordan Smith, Fri., June 22, 2012

Despite loud opposition from women and Planned Parenthood advocates like Lesli Simms, shown above at a rally last February, the state of Texas continues battling the nearly 100-year-old organization.
Despite loud opposition from women and Planned Parenthood advocates like Lesli Simms, shown above at a rally last February, the state of Texas continues battling the nearly 100-year-old organization.
Photo by Jana Birchum

Just a week after Texas Assistant Solicitor General Kristofer Monson told a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that Texas Planned Parenthood clinics could remain providers under the Women's Health Program if they agree to "stop promoting abortion" and change the organization's nearly 100-year-old name, a new set of WHP rules passed last week by the Depart­ment of State Health Services Council suggests that those two steps wouldn't actually do anything to keep current PP providers in the program.

Indeed, on June 14 the DSHS Council approved new proposed rules intended to govern an exclusively state-funded (as opposed to the current joint federal-state-funded) and rebranded Texas Women's Health Program; under those rules, any family-planning clinics that provide services under the WHP that also have a relationship with an abortion provider (entities that are not WHP providers) would be required not only to deaffiliate themselves from one another, but would also have to be housed in separate physical locations with separate addresses. As it stands, several of the state's PP clinics that do not provide abortion services but are WHP providers, share a close physical proximity to a PP clinic that does provide abortion services. For example, PP's Waco family-planning clinic is in the same building as the PP clinic that provides abortion services, though the two facilities are in separate office suites with different names, boards of directors, and signage. Under the language passed last week by the council, that would no longer be allowed, "even if those abortions are performed by a different corporate entity." Moreover, the two separate entities would be forbidden from having any common employees or volunteers. The rules now move to the Health and Human Ser­vices Commis­sion for further vetting.

Whether the courts will approve the new rules, of course, remains to be seen; a lawsuit brought by the state's PP clinics is currently pending in federal court that challenges the state's attempts to push its largest provider of WHP services out of the program for good. For more on the case, see "Planned Parenthood Wins Preliminary Injunction," April 30.

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