AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over a new law that bans state money from going to organizations tied to abortion providers.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge's temporary injunction calling for the funding to continue pending an October trial on Planned Parenthood's challenge to the law.
Texas officials sought to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services to poor women after the state's Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to organizations linked to abortion providers. No state money goes to pay for abortions.
Planned Parenthood sued, saying the law violates its free speech rights. The Texas attorney general argued lawmakers may decide which organizations receive state funds.
A federal judge in Austin had ruled that the funding should continue pending the trial on Planned Parenthood's lawsuit, saying there's sufficient evidence the state's law is unconstitutional. But the three-judge appellate panel disagreed, unanimously ruling Tuesday that Planned Parenthood was unlikely to prevail in future arguments that its free-speech rights were violated.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office had argued before the appeals court that the state is entitled to exclude groups affiliated with abortion providers from its federally subsidized Women's Health Program. Abbott cheered the appeals court decision, noting that it "rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women's Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion."
"We are encouraged by today's decision and will continue to defend the Women's Health Program in court," Abbot said in a statement.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the case "has never been about Planned Parenthood — it's about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams."
"It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic health care," Richards said. "Governor (Rick) Perry has already thrown 160,000 women off of health care for partisan political reasons — now there will be more to come.
"Today's ruling puts the health of an additional 52,000 women in jeopardy."
Tuesday's decision comes as conservative groups across the nation try to pass and enforce laws to put Planned Parenthood out of business and make getting an abortion more difficult. Earlier this year the same court upheld a new Texas law requiring doctors to perform a sonogram and provide women with a detailed description of the fetus before carrying out an abortion.
The latest battle involves the Texas Women's Health Care Program, which is designed to provide services to women who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. The state paid for roughly $5 million for the program with the federal government paying $35 million.
The federal Commission on Medicare and Medicaid Services, however, warned Texas against banning groups from the program based on their political activities and the federal government cut funding. The governor has promised the state will pick up the extra cost.
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