Appeals Court Refuses to Rehear Planned Parenthood Case

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied Planned Parenthood's request for the court to rehear a case about its involvement with the Texas Women's Health Program, meaning the state can move forward and cut Planned Parenthood out of the program

Almost immediately after the three-judge panel's ruling, the key players in the battle issued statements on the decision.

"This case has never been about Planned Parenthood — it's about the Texas women who turn to us everyday," said Kenneth Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. "Politics should never come between a woman and her health care." 

Gov. Rick Perry praised the ruling, saying it "affirms yet again that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion. In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott echoed Perry's sentiment, saying that the court "rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women's Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion."

Planned Parenthood has been the largest beneficiary of the Women's Health Program since it began as a Medicaid waiver program in 2006. It provides cancer screenings and contraceptives, but not abortions, to about half of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in the program every year.

In March, Perry announced the state would forgo federal funding and take over the program so it could exclude abortion providers and their affiliates. The state Health and Human Services Commission is set to launch the new Women's Health Program, without federal support, on Nov. 1.

Planned Parenthood affiliates had sued the state to remain in the program. 

The controversy dates back to the 2011 session when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law forbidding state agencies from providing funds to organizations affiliated with abortion providers.

In May, Judge Lee Yeakel agreed and imposed an injunction against the law from taking effect until all arguments could be heard. 

This summer, the 5th Circuit overturned that injunction, giving Planned Parenthood the opportunity to appeal that decision. Thursday's ruling cleared the way for the state to enforce a ban against affiliates of abortion providers in the Women’s Health Program. It simply grants the state permission, in essence, to move forward as it intended. The ruling is not a mandate.

“The 5th Circuit ruling aligns the Medicaid Women’s Health Program with state law," Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, M.D. said in a statement. "We’ve increased the number of doctors and clinics in the program, and we’ll be ready to help any woman who needs to find a new provider."

Planned Parenthood says that it will continue providing essential services to women. Lambrecht reiterated that point, saying, “Planned Parenthood has been in Texas for more than 75 years, and we're not going anywhere.  We are here for the patients who rely on us and we will continue to evaluate every possible option to protect the health of our patients." 

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