AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Friday against the Texas Women's Health Program, claiming a rule that prompted federal officials to cut off funding for the program violates state law and should be thrown out.
Federal officials cut off funding for the program effective Oct. 31 after the state banned from the program any doctor or clinic with ties to Planned Parenthood or other organizations that provide abortions. State law bans the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, but most Planned Parenthood clinics only provide preventive care and contraception.
Planned Parenthood provided services to 46 percent of the women in the Women's Health Program last year and has filed multiple lawsuits to overturn the so-called affiliate ban.
The original $36 million Medicaid Women's Program, which provides preventive health care and contraceptives to poor women, relied on 90 percent federal funding and 10 percent state money. When the Legislature authorized the program, they made it conditional on receiving federal funds.
However, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cut off funding because they said the ban on Planned Parenthood was an illegal interference with a woman's ability to choose her doctor. Gov. Rick Perry ordered the state Department of Health and Human Services to come up with a new state-funds-only program. Officials have said allowing the original program to end would cost even more money because it would trigger a spike in unplanned pregnancies and undetected health problems among poor women.
Planned Parenthood's suit filed Friday argues that since the Legislature made the original program conditional on federal funding, then the affiliate rule that triggered the withdrawal of federal funding is illegal and should be abandoned.
If Planned Parenthood is successful with any of its lawsuits, Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek has said he will shut down the Texas Women's Health Program rather than allow funding to go to Planned Parenthood.
Perry, who is staunchly anti-abortion, condemned the group for filing another lawsuit to get into the program.
"If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer," Perry said in a written statement. "In Texas, we've chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail."
Planned Parenthood suffered a setback in Texas on Thursday when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider its decision that the affiliate ban was constitutional. However, the group won an appeal against a similar law in Indiana when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the measure unconstitutionally interferes in the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
The cases likely will go to the U.S. Supreme Court because two appeals courts have reached different conclusions.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also has filed a separate lawsuit demanding that the federal government restore funding for the program. That case is scheduled to go to trial in March.