On Wednesday eight Planned Parenthood organizations sued the state of Texas after lawmakers excluded Planned Parenthood and its affiliates from participating in the state’s Women’s Health Program which provides health care to low income women.
Planned Parenthood claims that a new state law banning organizations affiliated with abortion providers from participating in the program amounts to unconstitutional discrimination by association. The groups, none of which provide abortions, contend that the law has nothing to do with providing medical care and is simply intended to silence individuals or groups who support abortion rights. Texas law already requires that groups receiving federal or state funding be legally and financially separate from clinics that perform abortions.
“The government cannot condition your participation in the health services on giving up your free speech,” said Pete Shenkken, the plaintiffs’ attorney, citing past U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The Obama administration has also cut off funding to Texas over the move because it violates federal law.
The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to block the state from enforcing the law before April 30, the date when those clinics will lose all funding under the new rule. Patricio Gonzalez, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County, said his organization currently cares for 6,500 women and would have to shut down two or three of its four clinics if the rule is enforced. South Texas is home to some of the poorest women in the nation.
“We are the largest health care provider for women in our region,” he said. “We know there aren’t any other providers in the region that can absorb 6,500 women as of May 1.”
Given the 5th Circuits zeal for mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, we should be cautious as this lawsuit works its way through the courts. However, Planned Parenthood had no choice. As an advocate for women’s health they have to fight for the women the Perry administration seems all to willing to throw away.
Photo from Fibonacci Blue via flickr.