Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) was rebuked by a federal court on Monday for his decision to withdraw all Medicare funds from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), in a move that triggered a showdown with the federal government amid an election season already fraught with gender politics.
The ruling, issued by Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin, will preserve Medicaid Women’s Health Program funding for PPFA clinics across the state, ensuring over 130,000 lower income women will continue to receive reproductive health care services. While Yeakel’s ruling is only a temporary injunction, it prevents Texas from shutting off the funds in the near term until the full trial can get underway later this summer.
In his ruling, Judge Yeakel wrote that PPFA’s arguments against the state of Texas “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success,” and noted that “the current unrebutted record reflects that Plaintiffs neither perform abortion nor counsel women participating in the Women’s Health Program to seek abortions.”
Since Texas Republicans began strangling funds for Planned Parenthood via other budgetary means, a wave of clinic closures has crossed the state, with dozens of non-PPFA locations shutting down as a consequence of the state revoking subsidies for women’s health programs. Even facing that, Texas Republicans prioritized and passed a law that effectively bans PPFA from receiving taxpayer dollars, meaning the state was looking to forgo $35 million in federal Medicare funding rather than see any of it benefit Planned Parenthood.
“We call on Governor Perry and the state to put Texan women first and set aside any vendetta they may have against Planned Parenthood,” Patricio Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association in Hidalgo County, said in a media advisory. “No woman should ever have to fear being cut off from her doctor’s care because of shortsighted political games.”
“Tens of thousands of Texan women enrolled in the Women’s Health Program rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, and access to birth control. For many women, we are the only doctor’s visit they will have this year,” Cecile Richards, president of PPFA, added in the statement. “This ruling affirms what women have known all along: politics simply doesn’t have a place in women’s health.”
Pulling public funds for PPFA clinics isn’t the only front-line battle for women’s rights in Texas: Perry and the state’s ruling Republicans have also passed a series of new regulations, including one highly controversial provision that requires women seeking abortions to undergo a medically unnecessary, invasive trans-vaginal sonogram first. That law is also facing legal challenges, but a judge gave regulators the go-ahead in January, citing a legal argument posed by the plaintiffs as lacking.
A PPFA spokesperson in Austin did not respond to a request for comment.
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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