In a last minute decision today, United States District Judge Lee Yeakel of Texas issued an injunction against a policy that would have cut all funding from the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program to 49 Planned Parenthood clinics on May 1. These clinics do not provide abortions, but focus instead of preventative screenings, education, and other basic services. Yeakel said he was not convinced that Texas would be able to replace the clinics—which would probably be forced to close—by the deadline, and moreover, that low-income women would clearly suffer from the loss of access. NPR has more details:
The clinics alleged that the Health and Human Services Commission’s rules infringed on their constitutional rights to free speech and to associate with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization that supports access to “safe and legal” abortion services. In Texas, none of the 49 clinics that received WHP funding performed abortions, but they referred women seeking the procedure to clinics that do.
Yeakel ruled that the commission’s rules requiring all Women’s Health Program providers to certify that they “do not promote ‘elective abortions’ and that they do not ‘affiliate’ with entities that perform or promote elective abortions” indicates that “Texas is reaching beyond the scope of the government program and penalizing plaintiffs for their protected conduct.”
While this is only a “status quo” ruling (meaning that the policy hasn’t been reversed but rather put on ice until a more detailed trial can take place), the decision is clearly a positive step for poor women in the Lone Star State. Losing an estimated $13.5 million in funding would have been devastating to an organization that already abides by state law barring the mixing of WHP funds with selective abortion. As Planned Parenthood points out in a press release on the ruling, the 49 clinics in question are “legally and financially separate entities” from those that do provide the service.
But the nominal connection that the clinics do have to PP is enough to irredeemably taint them in the eyes of conservative Texas politicians, regardless of the good and necessary work they provide. Luckily, Yeakel has temporarily halted this incursion of politics into women’s health; let’s hope his efforts can eventually become permanent.