Will State Be Allowed to Exclude PP From WHP?

That question is now before federal court

Will State Be Allowed to Exclude PP From WHP?
Illustration by Jason Stout

Does banning Planned Parenthood from participation in the Women's Health Program actually further the goals of the program? Or is banning the veteran women's health provider an unconstitutional move, designed to punish the provider for its advocacy on behalf of reproductive choice?

Those were among the questions advocates for PP and the state raised during a hearing before federal district Judge Lee Yeakel this afternoon. PP has sued the state for its attempts to block PP clinics from participation from the program, saying that the exclusion violates the nonprofit's First Amendment rights of free speech and association, and 14th Amendment right to equal protection under law. PP is the largest provider in the five-year-old WHP; in 2010 alone, PP clinics across the state served 46% of the more than 100,000 women who received services that year. (More than 183,000 women were actually enrolled in the program that year.) Last year the state sought to exclude the clinics, by arguing that the clinics that participate are nothing more than "affiliates" of clinics that perform or "promote" abortion. (You can find plenty of background on the current debate and uncertain future of the WHP here and here and here.)

The state, through Jonathan Mitchell of the state Office of Solicitor General, argued this afternoon that excluding PP is "germane" to its mission of promoting access to healthcare and reducing the number of abortions in the state. PP, through Planned Parenthood Federation of America lawyer Helene Krasnoff, argued that the case at bar is a "classic unconstitutional conditions" case, where the state wants the clinics to give up constitutional protections in order to receive money. Notably, none of the PP clinics that participate in the program actually provide abortion care.

Still, Mitchell argued that if Yeakel were to issue an injunction, barring the state (at least for the time being) from implementing the new rule that excludes PP from participation in the WHP it would be the court that would be harming needy Texas women. Krasnoff countered that Mitchell's take is simply not true; rather, it is the state, through its insistence that the program cannot continue without the exclusion of PP – a newly defined caveat that conflicts with existing state statute – that would undo a successful, money-saving program that has expanded health care for needy women. "The rule is the number one goal they have, and the rule is unconstitutional, " Krasnoff said.

Yeakel said he would rule by April 30.

More details to come.

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Legislature, Courts, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health Program, Lee Yeakel, Jonathan Mitchell, Helene Krasnoff, federal court, war on women, family planning, reproductive rights, women's health, abortion

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