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November 8, 2012

State Court Rules in Favor of Women's Health

Temporary injunction issued to halt exclusion of Planned Parenthood from Women's Health Program Protecting the health of Texas women is our top priority

Judge Stephen Yelenosky of the District Court of Travis County today granted Planned Parenthood's request for Temporary Injunction to protect nearly 50,000 Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for access to basic preventive healthcare.

In granting Planned Parenthood's request, Judge Yelenosky rejected the argument advanced by attorneys with the Texas Attorney General that the impact on women enrolled in the program was "irrelevant."

The Court's order prevents the state from implementing its "Affiliate Ban Rule," by which the state has sought to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program.

This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic, preventive health care through the Women's Health Program. 

"We are in court to save the Women's Health Program for the more than 100,000 Texas women who rely on the program for essential health care," said Melaney A Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.  "We applaud Judge Yelenosky's decision to grant a temporary injunction.  The state may claim that the effect on women is "irrelevant" but today's ruling is a small but critical victory for the approximately 50,000 Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for life-saving cancer screenings, basic health care and birth control through the Women's Health Program." 

"Planned Parenthood has not abandoned its federal constitutional claims, which were addressed in a separate federal case," said Pete Schenkkan, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood.   "As a procedural matter, we are doing what the law requires us to do in order to preserve our federal constitutional claims in case the state case doesn't resolve all of our claims."

To protect Texas women's access to essential health care, Planned Parenthood filed suit in state court on Oct. 26, 2012, claiming that the "Affiliate Ban Rule" barring Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program is in violation of state law. Planned Parenthood's lawsuit addresses the existing Medicaid Women's Health Program. 

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.  Enforcement of the rule would jeopardize health care access for tens of thousands of women and cost Texas taxpayers nearly $200 million over five years due to the state having to pay for the portion of the program currently paid for by the federal government.

While state officials have pursued efforts to eliminate Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program for more than a year, many Women's Health Program enrollees who rely on Planned Parenthood have called upon state officials to set politics aside and put Texas women and families first. 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. 

"I am a full-time student at Austin Community College, work 25 hours a week and have acquired financial aid and a scholarship to put myself through school. I do not have access to affordable health insurance.  I have been a patient of the Women's Health Program for 2 years and Planned Parenthood has been my trusted health-care provider for 10 years for not only birth control, but annual cancer screenings as well," said Emily Howell, of Austin. "When I was 19 years old, I had a major surgery for removal of a tumor in my abdomen. This has been one small thing that gives me some peace of mind... to know that I am free of cervical cancer and breast cancer. Every year, I have been checked and every time it is a huge burden lifted. No doctor's office has ever made me feel as comfortable and secure as I do when going to Planned Parenthood. They have always offered a compassionate, caring environment for me and many women that I know." 

"As a student, I live paycheck to paycheck and have no health insurance. If I didn't have access to affordable health care through Planned Parenthood, it would mean choosing between birth control and textbooks, breast cancer screenings or gas for my car," said Melissa Rangel, a Women's Health Program patient in Edinburg, where there aren't many alternate Women's Health Program providers besides Planned Parenthood available to her . "Planned Parenthood makes it possible for me to get the care I need, to be a successful student and keep healthy. They're the provider I know and trust. And there are tens of thousands of women in Texas just like me." 

Recent research by the George Washington University has demonstrated Planned Parenthood affiliates are the dominant Women's Health Program providers of care in the areas in which they serve, caring for anywhere between 50-80 percent of Women's Health Program patients in some communities.  To offset the loss of Planned Parenthood health centers, other providers would have to increase their capacity between two- and five-fold.  In addition, a recent article in the American Independent details one patient's struggle to find an alternate provider in the Women's Health Program without Planned Parenthood. The author reports many misleading errors and duplicate entries in the state-run database of WHP providers.

Background Facts:

FACT:  Planned Parenthood's state court lawsuit argues the "Affiliate Ban Rule" barring Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program was 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 makes any provision "inoperative" if it were to cause Texas to lose federal matching money for the Women's Health Program.  The Affiliate Ban Rule makes the Women's Health Program ineligible for federal funding, and, therefore, is invalid as a matter of state law. 

FACT: Texas officials claim that they are "required" to shut down the federally funded Women's Health Program if they cannot exclude Planned Parenthood.  The opposite is true.  The 2011 Legislature considered -- but did not adopt -- a so-called "poison pill"-- a provision that would have ended the entire program if the "Affiliate Ban Rule" is found unlawful. 

FACT: Research demonstrates that it is nearly impossible for other providers to offset the loss of Planned Parenthood in the Women's Health Program, given the drastic cuts to women's health care funding enacted by the 2011 Texas Legislature. In fact, 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. 

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: 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: 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:  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 has been Texas' most trusted source of nonprofit reproductive health care

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