Texas vs. Planned Parenthood

On Jan. 11, after a daylong hearing, Travis County Judge Stephen Yelenosky denied Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction, allowing the state to continue operating, for now, the state-funded Texas Women's Health Program that excludes the nonprofit. Although the judge agreed that "probable injury" to Planned Parenthood and its clients may result, that is not enough to block the program. Now that the state is funding the once-Medicaid-funded program, Yelenosky said, there is less likelihood that Planned Parenthood will prevail on the merits of the case (one of the elements required for issuing a temporary injunction).

At issue is whether the state can ban PP from participation in the new state-funded TWHP, which officially began Jan. 1, providing basic health care for low-income, uninsured women ages 18-44 who would not be eligible for Medicaid unless pregnant. Federal Medicaid law prohibits discrimination among qualified providers. Pete Schenkkan, representing the state's PP affiliates, argued before Yelenosky that state law also prohibits Texas from discriminating against PP's participation in the program, because it forbids jeopardizing federal funding. Assistant Solicitor General Kristofer Monson disagreed, saying state law requires the health agency to ensure that any WHP program not use money to "perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions."

Over the five years of the Medicaid-funded WHP, Planned Parenthood was the largest single provider of services, annually serving 40-50% of all program clients. In dumping PP from the program, the state is orphaning more than 40,000 women who had been receiving services at PP clinics, although it insists other providers can fill the gap.

Despite the ruling, Schenkkan says he remains "confident in the merits of our case," and is eager to proceed to trial. For more detail on the hearing, see "Planned Parenthood Denied Injunction," Newsdesk blog, Jan. 11.

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