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A federal appeals court refused yesterday to reconsider arguments against Texas’ barring of Planned Parenthood from participation in its Women’s Health Program (WHP). The deeply conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Planned Parenthood’s request to re-hear the health provider’s case “en banc,” which would have meant that all the court’s judges, instead of only a panel of three who’ve previously ruled against Planned Parenthood, would re-hear in its case. Planned Parenthood claims that its exclusion from the Texas program, because the state considers it an “abortion affiliate,” is a violation of the First Amendment.
Governor Rick Perry released a statement praising the court’s decision, saying:
“Today’s ruling affirms yet again that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion. In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”
The Texas Women’s Health Program does not provide or fund abortion and in fact is expressly directed at women who are not pregnant; despite this, conservative Texas lawmakers have fought to exclude it from serving the 50 thousand or so WHP clients— about half of all clients—to which it has provided care in years past. Researchers at the University of Texas and George Washington University have found that, because of Planned Parenthood’s exclusion from the WHP and Texas’ drastic cuts to family planning funds earlier this year, Texas will most likely see a marked increase in Medicaid-funded births and unwanted pregnancies. Lawmakers, however, can rest easy knowing they’ve put Texans’ reproductive wellbeing at risk to score political points.
Even with today’s ruling, Planned Parenthood says this “isn’t the final word.” Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas representative Danielle Wells told RH Reality Check that “We’re still in consultation with our lawyers and evaluating all our legal options,” which include a trial in federal district court in Austin.
That court has historically been much friendlier to Planned Parenthood’s arguments than the Fifth Circuit, which reversed the district court’s ruling that allowed Planned Parenthood could continue participation in the program while the health provider’s lawsuit runs its course in the court system. One of the Fifth Court judges, Reagan appointee Jerry Smith, who ranted in court about “Obamacare” earlier this year, was also welcomed by professional bloviator Rush Limbaugh to his “team” after a glaring attempt to embarrass the President and the Department of Justice over their stance on “judicial overreach” back in April.