In Never-Ending Battle Between Texas and Planned Parenthood, Judge Says PP Can Be Blocked From New Women's Health Program

For those of you who have been following the ongoing, never-ending, multi-court battle of Texas vs. Planned Parenthood, we'll make this quick: Planned Parenthood is out of the Texas Women's Health Program. Again. For now.

Now, let's all heave a huge collective sigh and revisit the longer version of the story. (Quickly, I promise.) Texas wants Planned Parenthood's health clinics out of the WHP, because the non-profit has legally and financially separate surgical centers that perform abortions. The WHP is for non-pregnant women and doesn't ever pay for or provide abortions anyway, so you go ahead and figure out the logic there. Texas is set to begin its own WHP on January 1, one that doesn't get any federal funding. They're doing this solely to try to keep PP from the program, something they couldn't do while receiving federal money.

In October, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said they wouldn't re-hear Planned Parenthood's case appealing their ban from the new, state-run program. Governor Rick Perry declared victory, saying he would "immediately defund" PP.

Not so fast: later that afternoon, Texas won a temporary restraining order from a state judge to remain in the program. On November 8, a different state judge granted Planned Parenthood a longer-lasting temporary injunction .

That kept Planned Parenthood in the program and seeing WHP patients. But the state successfully appealed that injunction and once again began trying to kick PP out of the program. So earlier this month, Planned Parenthood filed two new lawsuits against the state. One was actually filed by a woman named Marcy Balquinta, a WHP patient. She claimed that under state law, Texas didn't have the power to exclude PP from the program simply because they dislike abortion. (The other suit, filed in federal court, says that Texas is placing unconstitutional restrictions on PP, despite it being a qualified healthcare provider.)

In the state suit, Planned Parenthood is also fighting what they call a "poison pill" severability clause. Basically, Texas says they'll shut down the entire Texas Women's Health Program if the court ultimately allows Planned Parenthood to participate. (That would leave hundreds of thousands of poor women without affordable healthcare access, thus showcasing the state's apparently deep and entirely sincere concern for women's health.)

Today's ruling was in the state suit. It denies Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary injunction to allow it to stay in the new state WHP. That program is set to begin on January 1.

In other words, the program will launch tomorrow without Planned Parenthood. At least until January 11, when yet another hearing will be held.

Lauren Bean, a spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General's Office, told the Texas Tribune that the AG is pleased that the court has "rejected Planned Parenthood's latest attempt to skirt state law." Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht has already issued a statement, calling it "shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women."

Honestly, we're not that shocked. Not anymore.

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