As you know, last year the Lege passed a law that forbade Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women’s Health Program on the grounds that PP does abortions even though none of the PP clinics that participate in the Women’s Health Program perform abortions – they’re in a separate organization all together. The federal government then told Texas it would cut off funds for the WHP, since denying PP’s participation meant denying women their choice of provider, which is against Medicaid regulations. The state then announced it would create its own Women’s Health Program with its own money, but they still wanted those federal funds anyway, and sought an injunction barring the feds from cutting off the funds. They lost.
Texas’ request to force the U.S. Health and Human Services to continue funding its Women’s Health Program was denied Friday, as a judge sided with federal authorities who say the state’s exclusion of Planned Parenthood violates HHS guidelines.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith’s ruling won’t affect the state’s decision to move forward next year with an entirely state-funded program, even though the state was also seeking to keep its federal funding, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. But Planned Parenthood, which serves more than 40 percent of the low-income women in Texas’ program, questioned whether the state’s efforts would be effective without federal funding or its clinics.
Texas officials say they have created an entirely state-funded program, which, starting Jan. 1, will provide the same services but exclude Planned Parenthood, Goodman said. The program is estimated to cost $40 million a year.
Goodman said the commission had found “pockets of money” in its budget to fund the Women’s Health Program through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends in August. The Legislature will have to pass funding to continue the program from September on, she said.
Joseph Mead, an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice, said federal law gave Sebelius discretion to approve or deny state funding requests. Medicaid rules also guaranteed patients the chance to choose their provider, Mead said.
“The state wants to have its cake and eat it too,” Mead said.
Smith did not detail why he declined to grant an injunction.
Goodman said the state has signed up more than 1,000 new providers to replace Planned Parenthood, and that its surveys indicated there were enough providers for major metropolitan areas. Officials are still evaluating some smaller and rural areas, she said.
But Planned Parenthood and its supporters question whether participants in the state-funded program will have access to care if the reproductive care provider is excluded. It has sued in state court to be included in the new program.
I agree with Attorney Mead, and I consider this move on Texas’ part to be another admission that they’re not ready to replace Planned Parenthood in the WHP despite their bluster and braggadocio. It would be funny in a pathetic sort of way if the Lege is unable to get that money it needs to keep their WHP program afloat appropriated. Don’t think for a minute there isn’t someone in the Lege who’s misogynistic and zealous enough to want to torpedo the whole thing for some bizarrely sexist reason. Whether such a person is able to make such an attempt is a different question, but I have no doubt there will be someone whose first thought is “why do we even need this at all”.