A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas may proceed to pull funding for more than half of the women’s health clinics across the state due to their affiliation with privately funded clinics that perform abortions.
As a result of Thursday’s decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gov. Rick Perry (R) said that state officials will “immediately” begin defunding clinics operated by Planned Parenthood, most of which do not actually perform any abortions in the state.
Perry announced earlier this year that he’d made defunding Planned Parenthood a priority for his administration, triggering months of legal wrangling with the clinics and the federal government. Federal law requires that states not discriminate against health providers in distributing federal funds, but a court ultimately ruled that Texas could forgo federal assistance entirely and set up its own health program.
That’s precisely what Perry is doing, passing on more than $40 million in federal assistance and directing the state to exclude Planned Parenthood, which provides health care services to more than 130,000 low-income women in Texas. Planned Parenthood has 49 health centers across Texas, many of which will be forced to close due to Perry’s decision.
As an experiment, pro-choice activist Andrea Grimes said in September that she spent six hours trying to locate a women’s health clinic in Austin that isn’t Planned Parenthood but does accept Medicaid. Despite a list of 181 clinics on the state’s website, Grimes said she found just 13 actual doctors in the whole state who perform the necessary procedures and accept Medicaid, explaining that the other listings were repeats, radiology centers, labs and doctors who didn’t take Medicaid at all.
To make matters worse for many low-income women, the Kaiser Family Foundation says that Texas has one of the most restrictive Medicaid programs in the country, requiring that a family of three earn less than $188 a month to qualify for assistance. Under the president’s Affordable Care Act, however, Medicaid was slated to expand dramatically to cover nearly all low-income Americans, but Perry also said he will turn down more than $164 billion in federal money that would have been used to provide health care to 1.2 million Texans through 2023.
In a prepared statement published to the governor’s website, Perry said the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling on Thursday “affirms yet against that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion. In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliated to honor and uphold that choice.”
The clinics have the option of seeking an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the 5th Circuit’s ruling effectively denied a rehearing.
“This case has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the Texas women who turn to us every day,” Kenneth Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told Bloomberg News. “Politics should never come between a woman and her health care, but in this decision, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, it appears it has.”
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Correction: A prior version of this story said that Planned Parenthood does not perform any abortions in Texas — they do at a small number of clinics, but the group is prohibited by law from using taxpayer money to finance the procedure.