Is Planned Parenthood Threatening State's Right of Free Speech?

Group says PP dilutes Texas' pro-life message for women

Is Planned Parenthood Threatening State's Right of Free Speech?
Illustration by Jason Stout

If Texas has to allow Planned Parenthood to provide women with health services under the Women's Health Program, how can it also get across a pro-life message?

That's the question that a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the American Center for Law and Justice asks of the current legal wrangling over which health care providers women may access for basic preventative care and access to birth control.

If you're not already in the loop, you can find the entire back story on the WHP controversy here and here.

In its brief, the ACLJ and other amici argue that the case currently pending in federal court is a simple one not about whether the state of Texas is placing unconstitutional limitations on PP in order to squeeze the qualified healthcare provider from participation in the WHP, but about whether the government can exercise it's right of free speech by picking and choosing who best will deliver it's pro-life message. "The [Texas Health and Human Services] Commission's right to provide women's health services with a pro-life message is indisputable," reads the brief. "If speaker autonomy means anything, it means that the government can legitimately determine that an entity promoting incompatible goals would not be a credible bearer of the government's message, and in fact would undermine the government's message." Indeed, according to the ALCJ argument, the WHP is not about providing basic healthcare – and about reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies in the state (paid for by Medicaid) through access to family planning – but instead is about providing pro-life message "promoting childbirth."

You can find background on the purpose of the WHP here and here.

A trial on the merits of the case filed against Texas by Planned Parenthood this spring is scheduled for Oct. 19 before Judge Lee Yeakel in federal district court in Austin.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Legislature, Women's Health Program, WHP, Planned Parenthood, reproductive rights, family planning, American Center for Law and Justice, ACLJ, abortion, Lee Yeakel, courts, Health and Human Services Commission, HHSC

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