Texas Judge to Rule on Gov. Rick Perry's 'Extreme' Anti-Abortion Law

A rally for women's health in Austin. (Photograph: Mary Helen Leonard)

Texas Judge to Rule on Gov. Rick Perry's 'Extreme' Anti-Abortion Law

State must not abandon 'crucial safety net for poor women'

Planned Parenthood is in a Texas court on Friday continuing its fight for a "crucial safety net for poor women."

The group's lawyers are asking the judge to grant an injunction temporarily overturning a controversial Texas law, the Affiliate Ban rule, that bars Planned Parenthood from participating in the state's new Women's Heath Program because it's affiliated with abortion providers. The injunction would allow the group to continue offering healthcare to tens of thousands of women.

ABC News explains:

From 2007 through 2012, the Women's Health Program got 90 percent of its funding from Medicare, but that all changed when state lawmakers decided to exclude Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion advocacy.

Federal officials decided the state rule was illegal because it interfered with a woman's right to choose her own doctor. They gave Texans a choice: allow Planned Parenthood to be part of the Women's Health Program or lose federal funding. In response, Texas launched a new Women's Health Program that only uses state funds and excludes Planned Parenthood. The changes went into effect Jan. 1.

In December, a visiting judge temporarily upheld the law, which Planned Parenthood said meant some clinics would close immediately and affect thousands of women, because a majority of their patients were part of the WHP, and all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state would immediately begin charging poor women for services that were previously free, Pete Schenkkan, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said.

Schenkkan said at the time, "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."

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood today will argue that the organization provides basic health services to half of the more than 100,000 women who were previously enrolled in the state's Women's Health Program. They say the law means the Planned Parenthood affiliates and the women they serve will be irreparably harmed if access to funding isn't restored.

But Perry's new program is already fraught with problems, the Waco Tribune reports. Among them, doctors listed on its website aren't actually participating or won't take new patients through the program." In addition, although the new program is designed to offer such services as contraception, cervical cancer screenings and STD screening and treatment, one provider listed is Waco Cardiology Associates--which offers none of those.

The state's effort to kick Planned Parenthood out of the fold of health providers for low-income women is extreme, "even for Texas," a recent editorial in the Austin Statesman said.

The paper continued:

It is true that Planned Parenthood is a major abortion provider. But it's also true that none of the participating clinics provide abortions; they are health centers that provide basic care and birth control to low-income women. Those centers serve women who are too poor to afford health insurance but not poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor. It is a smart investment for a state where one in four people lacks health insurance. That makes Texas No. 1 in the nation for the highest rate of uninsured people. That is an inescapable truth that demands an all-hands-on-deck approach to dealing with the medical needs of the uninsured. Already the fallout of a temporary ban is being felt in clinics that now are charging some fees for services to families whose incomes fall below $3,500 a month.

Instead of trying to oust health care providers that are filling a gap, the state should be welcoming them. It's now up to the courts to maintain a crucial safety net for poor women.

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