This was a strange week in the courts for Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Health Program. On Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to rehear Planned Parenthood’s case against the state over the WHO, meaning that its awful ruling that threw out the original injunction against the state would stand and PP would be barred from the program beginning this week. Then on Friday a new injunction was issued in a state district court in Travis County, in response to claims that the “Affiliate Ban Rule” that bars it from participating in the Women’s Health Program is invalid under Chapter 32 of the Texas human resources code, which makes the Women’s Health Program subject to federal government approval. What that means in conjunction with the federal court ruling is not clear to me.
I won’t be surprised if the state is able to get this injunction tossed as well. I’m not a lawyer, so don’t ask me how they could do that, but I won’t be surprised if they can. At this point, further legal action, whether an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Fifth Circuit ruling or further litigation on other grounds, seems unlikely to work. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling was terrible, but I fear we are stuck with it. But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. It just means we have to take it to another venue, and that venue is the Legislature and the Governor’s office, which is where it was lost in the first place. At this point, either all of the predictions about how badly access to health care will be affected by cutting out Planned Parenthood will come true, or the state will be able to provide a workable replacement for them but at a much higher cost thanks to the loss of federal funds. In either case, there’s a political argument to be made that the Republicans who implemented this policy made a bad choice that wound up causing real harm to thousands of women, all at a greater cost to the taxpayer and in service of an unbending ideology rather than any empirical need. Policy choices can be changed, after all. It’s up to us to create the conditions for such change to happen. I don’t believe we will get relief from the courts, and even if we did Rick Perry and his fellow travelers would find some other way to stick it to women and their health care providers. The best way to deal with that is to deny them the power to pass those laws in the first place. We can’t lose sight of that.