Naked City

Funds for Planned Parenthood, but strings attached

Glenda Parks of Planned Parenthood
Glenda Parks of Planned Parenthood (Photo By Jana Birchum)

Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas welcomed an appeals court ruling last week that guarantees them a continued flow of federal family planning funds from the state – provided they establish separate entities for abortion services and family planning.

The opinion isn't the last word, however. In that respect, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision also pleased abortion opponents because it effectively kicked the case back to Austin and ordered U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks to dissolve his preliminary injunction against the state and proceed to trial.

The case grew out of new state funding restrictions that rode into law on the coattails of the 2003 state appropriations bill. "Rider 8," authored by state Sens. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, disqualified clinics or other health care centers that provide abortions from participating in the state family planning program. A series of actions followed: Six Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas filed suit, Sparks issued an injunction, and the state appealed to the 5th Circuit.

The Texas Department of Health, which administers the funding, argued on appeal that the law is not unconstitutional, as Sparks deemed it, because it allowed centers such as Planned Parenthood to create clear separations between their abortion-related activities and their family planning services. But the appeals court pointed out that TDH did not offer that provision when it asked the six Planned Parenthood plaintiffs to sign affidavits swearing that they would neither provide nor outsource abortion services as a condition of their funding.

Planned Parenthood operates 33 clinics throughout the state that rely on the funds to help cover the cost of care to 115,000 low-income women. Since the appeals court ruling, TDH has said it will continue honoring the injunction and provide the funds. Planned Parenthood uses private funds to pay for abortion services.

Still unclear is how "separate" the two entities have to be to qualify for funding. The appeals court ruled that the requirement shouldn't be so burdensome that it impedes PP's ability to get the funds, but the question remains whether the Austin-based Planned Parenthood, one of the plaintiffs in the case, would have to physically move a chunk of its operations out of the newly built flagship complex in South Austin. PP spokeswoman Danielle Tierney said they are requesting clarification on that score. Tierney said the plaintiffs overall weren't surprised by the appeals court ruling because of similar decisions made in other cases in the U.S. "It's a fairly common solution or compromise," she said, "but of course the devil is in the details. The court said that the separation requirements cannot be so burdensome as to 'frustrate' our ability to receive funding. It's just not clear at this time what that separation will entail."

Glenda Parks, CEO of the Austin-based Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, remained upbeat nonetheless. "Planned Parenthood remains committed to ensuring that the women of Texas have access to the full range of reproductive health services," she said. "We welcome clarification of the requirements to receive state funds so that we can begin to comply immediately."

The five other PP plaintiffs in the suit represent areas in and around Waco, Houston and southeast Texas, North Texas, San Antonio, and West Texas.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Naked City

    State GOP can't keep members on the farm ... or out of casinos

    Naked City

    Did you know an educated Chinaman knows 2,000 symbols and can draw them?
  • Naked City

    Violates Eighth Amendment, Judge Says

    Naked City

    House committee approves bill helping "cocktail napkin" applications skirt regulation

    Naked City

    Attempts at decriminalizing, or at least lessening punishment, in Texas and elsewhere

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Amy Smith
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014


Planned Parenthood, Danielle Tierney, Glenda Parks, Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Steve Ogden, Tommy Williams

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle