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October 26, 2012

Planned Parenthood Files State Suit against Women's Health Program Ban

Protecting access to affordable health care for Texas women is #1 priority

AUSTIN, TX - To protect Texas women's access to essential health care, Planned Parenthood today filed suit in state court, claiming that the "Affiliate Ban Rule" barring Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program is in violation of state law.  

The court issued a temporary restraining order, which will prevent the "Affiliate Ban Rule" from barring Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program until the court holds a hearing on our request for a temporary injunction which is currently set for November 8, 2012. This ruling is a small victory for the approximately 50,000 Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic, preventive health care through the Women's Health Program, which includes lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.  We hope that the court will next grant our request for a temporary injunction.

"We are in court to stand up for the health of more than 100,000 low-income, uninsured Texas women who rely on Women's Health Program and Planned Parenthood to stay healthy," said Melaney A. Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. "We will do everything possible to protect the health of women and families in Houston, southeast Texas and across Texas."

 The federal government, which has covered 90 percent of the cost of the Women's Health Program, declared that the Affiliate Ban Rule impermissibly restricts the rights of patients and would not be allowed in the Medicaid program.  The rule will cost Texas taxpayers nearly $200 million over five years.

In the lawsuit filed today, Planned Parenthood argues that the Rules are not authorized by Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code, which establishes the Women's Health Program subject to approval from the federal government.  This chapter also makes any provision "inoperative" if it were to cause Texas to lose federal matching money for the Women's Health Program.  HHSC was not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women's Health Program ineligible for federal funding.  The Affiliate Ban Rule is, therefore, invalid as a matter of state law.

"The state's 'Affiliate Ban Rule' is invalid under state law and, most importantly, threatens the integrity of the program and harms women who rely on Planned Parenthood, the provider of choice for nearly half of the patients who receive basic, preventive health care in the Women's Health Program," said Pete Schenkkan, attorney with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody. Currently more than one-quarter of Texas women are uninsured, and women in Texas have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the U.S. 

If Planned Parenthood is banned from the Women's Health Program, it will jeopardize health care access for tens of thousands of Texas women.  Research demonstrates community health centers would have to greatly expand in order to offset the loss of Planned Parenthood from the program, which research shows is nearly impossible after cuts to women's health enacted in 2011.  On August 30, Texas' then Medicaid Director acknowledged that the Texas Women's Health Program does not have sufficient alternative providers to meet the needs of the approximately 50,000 patients served by Planned Parenthood.  

Background Facts:

FACT:  A study released October 11, 2012 from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services is the latest in a series of research finding eliminating Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program will further exacerbate harm to Texas women caused by Texas' 2011 cuts to its family planning programs.

FACT: A recent analysis from the Center for Public Policy Priorities found that the Affiliate Ban Rule has led nearly 100 health care providers, including Planned Parenthood health centers, to be excluded from or no longer participate in the Women's Health Program.  Together, these providers that failed to recertify for the program or will no longer be in the program if the Rule is enforced against Planned Parenthood provided two-thirds (61 percent) of Women's Health Program services in state fiscal year 2011.

FACT: An estimated 160,000 women are already going without preventive health care this year because of Texas officials' politically-motivated budget cuts to family planning, which have already caused dozens of women's health care centers to close statewide.

FACT: A recent peer-reviewed study in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the short-term impact of Texas' 2011 family planning cuts on women's health.  They found the most reliable contraceptive methods, such as IUDs and implants, are less available to women due to higher upfront costs and women are opting out of testing for STDs to save money.  "We are witnessing the dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon," the authors write.

FACT: Texas was ranked worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.  Governor Perry also publicly stated he would not expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, which means many women and families in need of health care will continue to be left behind in Texas. 

FACT:  Planned Parenthood health centers that contract with the state for family planning grant funds and/or participate in the Women's Health Program are legally and financially separate from Planned Parenthood health centers that provide safe and legal abortions.  Moreover, consistent with federal and state law, at no Planned Parenthood facility are Women's Health Program funds "used to perform or promote elective abortions."


Planned Parenthood Affiliates in Texas are represented by attorneys with the Texas firm Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

For more than 75 years Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has been the most trusted provider of reproductive health care, unbiased sexuality information and advocacy for access to both. Last year, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast provided more than 103,000 medical visits to women and men in Houston, Southeast Texas and Louisiana.

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