The struggle by Planned Parenthood to allow access for low-income women in Texas has suffered a set back. Judge Gary Harger ruled that Planned Parenthood clinics and its affiliated doctors are not allowed to provide care through its new Texas Women’s Health Program. The state claims that because the organization provides abortions it should not be funded to provide any services even though the services provided through Planned Parenthood for the program does not include abortions.
Although the program is technically new, it’s actually a clone of a federally funded program from 2007 called the Women’s Health Program. Despite claims by the governor’s office that the Obama administration is phasing out the program, the truth is the federal government cut off its $35 million in funding because the state discriminated against a qualified provider. While the federal government does not allow Medicaid funds to be used for abortions, it does allow reimbursement for non-abortion services, which is what the Texas Planned Parenthood clinics did for 48,000 of the 110,000 women who utilized the program.
The court battle is not new, and in fact started after the Texas legislature passed a bill back in 2011. It pitted the federal government against Planned Parenthood by requesting that funds be put into block grant form, which allows greater flexibility for use of the funds. The government did not allow the waiver request, and realized that the state was trying to do an end run around the government’s requirement to use approved providers, which includes Planned Parenthood. While the Governor’s office claims that the change won’t be a burden to women who use the program, because Planned Parenthood represents a rather small percentage of providers, the fact remains many of those providers are not within easy reach of the people who utilize the services. Apparently, the judge didn’t see it that way. Another hearing is scheduled for January 11.