In what critcs are calling 'a one-two punch to women's health,' GOP officials continued their further assault on women's rights when a visiting judge in Texas ruled that the state can now deny funding to Planned Parenthood clinics because the organization advocates for reproductive rights.
The ruling follows by only days the enactment of extreme anti-abortion legislation in Michigan by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
Visiting Judge Gary Harger ruled Monday that Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from the new, state-funded Texas Women's Health Program, which today replaces the previous program to provide preventative care for low-income women. In 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry set up the program, saying he would forgo approximately $30 million each year in federal dollars in order to be able to ban medical providers “affiliated” with abortion providers from participating, The Texas Tribune reports.
“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women," said Ken S. Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
The new state program runs contrary to federal law that requires states to provide Medicaid funding to qualified health care providers.
Planned Parenthood filed a request for a restraining order seeking exclusion from the new law, arguing it provides preventative women's health care not associated with abortions for nearly 50,000 Texas women each year, CNN reports.
The ruling, which comes after a months-long legal battle between Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and the state, means some Planned Parenthood clinics will close immediately, because a majority of their patients were part of the WHP, and all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state will immediately begin charging poor women for services that were previously free, Pete Schenkkan, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said.
Arguing in court on Friday, Schenkkan said, “That would cause many of these women not to seek care at all ... Some of those women will die. Others will suffer devastating impacts to their health.”
Since 48,000 of the 110,000 women who participated in the program received services from Planned Parenthood, Schenkkan said, excluding the clinics will mean patients will have to drive further and wait longer for appointments or attempt to pay for services themselves from other providers.
"Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will be here for our patients," said Lambrecht. "Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need," said We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their well being.”
And despite the ruling, not all Texas lawmakers are convinced that gutting the state's women's health program is best for Texas.
Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, called Monday's ruling "a one-two punch to women's health" since cuts in the Legislature have already resulted in many clinics closing.
Howard told Reuters, "I vehemently disagree with the state's efforts to blacklist a qualified provider and, thereby, interfere with a woman's right to choose her own provider." She added that "extremist political influence" led to Planned Parenthood's exclusion.
Monday's ruling in Texas comes just three days after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder approved legislation that will restrict abortion access for women who live in rural areas and require doctors to prove that women haven't been "coerced" into getting an abortion.
In a statement earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights said:
Texas has some of the most abysmal reproductive health indicators in the US. It ranks #4 in highest teenage pregnancy rates, yet Texas still chose to slash the budget for family-planning services by two-thirds. Texas teens rank at or near the bottom in the percentage use of every major birth control method. And the Lone Star state has the highest percentage of people in the country without health insurance, both for adults and children.
So what does Gov. Perry announce as a major objective? He wants to rid the state of an essential health care service, regardless of the medical needs of women in the state.
As we posted just a few weeks ago, Texas legislators have already signaled their intent to push for a ban on medication abortion. And anti-choice extremists are lobbying for a clearly unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. It seems clear that Gov. Perry will receive any anti-choice measures with open arms, making Texas an increasingly unhealthy place for women to live.
Following Monday's decision, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and client Marcela Balquinta filed for a temporary restraining order, and a hearing on a temporary injunction is scheduled for Jan. 11, The Dallas Morning News reports.