Friday capped a week of judicial whiplash for Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.
Planned Parenthood filed suit in April as the state's Health and Human Services Commission unrolled plans to ban PP clinics from participating in Texas widely successful Women's Health Program starting this month. PP clinics celebrated Monday after federal District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled they could continue to serve WHP clients as the case plays out in court – those clinics serve nearly half of all women enrolled in the program, which provides basic health care, like breast and cervical cancer screenings, and family planning services for thousands of low-income women across Texas.
The celebration was short lived, however. State Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the ruling within hours with language that should make low-income, uninsured women across Texas squirm, writing that state lawmakers “are not willing to support any government program that causes Planned Parenthood to receive taxpayer subsidies – no matter how much good that program may accomplish.” (Texas' hatred for Planned Parenthood apparently outweighs its concern for the health of those poor women served by the WHP).
Abbott found a friend in U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith, a former Harris County GOP chairman who, on his own, issued a late-night emergency stay once again banning PP clinics from the program. Smith's got his own less-than-sterling record when it comes to women. Part of the three-judge panel that upheld the state's controversial pre-abortion sonogram law, the Associated Press last month noted how Smith's appointment to the bench by President Reagan in the late '80s was challenged largely because of incendiary comments he made about women at the time – that feminists were “a gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects," along with his calling the League of Women Voters the “Plague of Women Voters.”
The full three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit Court reversed Smith's emergency stay Friday, meaning Texas Planned Parenthood clinics can stay in the program as the case winds through the courts.
Whew. Got that? And aside from the clusterfuck manner in which the case played out this week, a new report out of George Washington University's Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy adds some perspective to why Planned Parenthood's participation, or lack thereof, in the WHP is of particular concern.
The report notes that the state's community health centers would have to expand their capacity nearly 12 fold to make up for the clients Planned Parenthood would be forced to dump because of the state's new rule banning "affiliates" of abortion providers. “Such an expansion in such a short period of time is virtually impossible, particularly given the simultaneous and steep loss in family planning grant funding experienced by health centers along with other family planning programs throughout the state,” the authors write. Kicking PP clinics out of the program “jeopardizes access to care for nearly 52,000 low-income women,” the report states, saying Planned Parenthood clinics make up the single largest source of health care for those enrolled in the program – about 49 percent of all WHP-financed care for FY 2010.
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