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Court: Texas Can Ban Planned Parenthood From Women's Health Program

A federal appeals panel on Tuesday lifted a temporary injunction and ruled that Texas can remove Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program before an October hearing in district court.

Planned Parenthood supporters rally on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on March 8, 2011.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday lifted a temporary injunction and ruled that Texas can remove Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program. 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission responded swiftly to the decision.

"We appreciate the court's ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women's Health Program as quickly as possible," commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman wrote in an emailed statement.

Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the appeals court's unanimous ruling "rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women's Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion. We are encouraged by today's decision and will continue to defend the Women's Health Program in court."

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, Gov. Rick Perry announced the state would forgo federal funding and take over the program so it could exclude abortion providers and their affiliates. Planned Parenthood affiliates sued the state to remain in the program. 

The appeals court decision means Texas can now ban Women's Health Program funds from going to Planned Parenthood clinics before an October hearing in the case in district court.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the reproductive rights giant is "evaluating every possible option to protect women's health in Texas." 

“It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic health care," Richards said. 

In 2011, Republicans in the Texas Legislature orchestrated a two-thirds reduction in state family planning funds, which is separate from the Women's Health Program. Richards vowed that Planned Parenthood's clinics would remain open despite the drastic funding cuts. 

Perry, in an emailed statement, lauded the court's ruling as affirmation "that Texas’ Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund organizations that promote abortion — including Planned Parenthood. The 5th Circuit’s decision is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life."

Perry said he would continue to work with Abbott to defend the state's rules and that “Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program.” 

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