* Big victory for Planned Parenthood
* Texas appeals federal judge's injunction
* Ban would have affected thousands of women
(Adds statement from governor's office, background)
AUSTIN, Texas, April 30 A federal judge on
Monday temporarily blocked a new Texas rule that would have
banned state funding for Planned Parenthood clinics and ended
their health services for poor women because the organization
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in favor of
Planned Parenthood means thousands of women enrolled in the
Texas Women's Health Program who go to its clinics will not have
to find new healthcare providers, at least for now.
"The court is particularly influenced by the potential for
immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by
several thousand Texas women," Yeakel said in a 24-page ruling.
The preliminary injunction is a big victory for Planned
Parenthood, which has been under siege in several states by
abortion opponents. In the past year alone, states including
Wisconsin, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, in addition to
Texas, have moved to block Planned Parenthood from receiving
"For many women, we are the only doctor's visit they will
have this year," Cecile Richards, president of Planned
Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This
ruling affirms what women have known all along: politics simply
doesn't have a place in women's health."
Texas Governor Rick Perry and some Republican lawmakers have
said they would rather eliminate the women's healthcare program
entirely than direct money to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Texas immediately appealed the federal judge's decision.
"Texas has a long history of protecting life, and we are
confident in Attorney General Abbott's appeal to defend the will
of Texans and our state law, which prohibits taxpayer funds from
supporting abortion providers and affiliates in the Women's
Health Program," the governor's press secretary Catherine
Frazier said in a statement.
The Texas program, which is part of the federal-state
Medicaid program, provides cancer screenings, birth control and
other health services to more than 100,000 low-income women.
The program does not pay for abortions or allow abortion
providers to participate in the program. The new Texas state
rule would ban program money from going to affiliates of
BAN ON AFFILIATES
State law has included that ban on affiliates since the
program began in 2007, but the state did not enforce it. Texas
notified the federal government last year that it intended to
begin enforcing the ban, effectively excluding Planned
Parenthood from the program.
On March 9, the administration of President Barack Obama
announced that it would no longer provide funding for the Texas
program if Planned Parenthood was excluded. Texas then filed
suit against the federal government. The ruling on Monday was on
the Texas suit.
According to Planned Parenthood, about 49 percent of the
women who received services through the program in 2010 obtained
some services through a Planned Parenthood provider. Planned
Parenthood said it would lose about $13.5 million of annual
funding for preventive care and family planning if the rule is
applied, forcing it to close clinics and lay off staff.
Texas has already made deep cuts in other family-planning
programs. As a result, state subsidies that once provided
low-cost birth control to 220,000 women a year now cover fewer
than 60,000 women a year.
The federal government pays for 90 percent of the cost of
the Texas Women's Health Program, which serves low-income women
of reproductive age who do not qualify for regular Medicaid
coverage. Texas puts up just $4 million a year.
Critics object to Planned Parenthood receiving taxpayer
money, which cannot be used to provide abortions, arguing that a
steady stream of government grants provide an indirect subsidy
by helping pay utility bills and keep doctors on staff.
Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion
provider, terminating about 330,000 pregnancies a year.
It gets about a third of its revenue - $360 million in 2009
- from government grants to provide birth control, gynecological
exams and care for sexually transmitted diseases to low-income
(Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan and; Writing by David Bailey;
Editing by Greg McCune and Anthony Boadle)