The US state of Texas can cut off funding to the family planning organization Planned Parenthood’s programs for poor women, a judge ruled on Monday.
Judge Gary Harger said that Texas may exclude otherwise qualified doctors and clinics from receiving state funding if they advocate for abortion rights, attorney-general spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.
The state has long banned the use of state funds for abortion, but had continued to reimburse Planned Parenthood clinics for providing basic healthcare to poor women through the state’s Women’s Health Program. The program provides check-ups and birth control to 110,000 poor women a year, and Planned Parenthood clinics were treating 48,000 of them.
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit to stop the rule will still go forward, but the judge decided on Monday that the ban may go into effect for now. In seeking a temporary restraining order, Planned Parenthood’s patients could have continued to see their current doctors until a final decision was made.
Ken Lambrecht, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said he brought the lawsuit on behalf of poor women who depend on its clinics.
“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize healthcare access for women,” Lambrecht said. “Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health and their well-being.”
Planned Parenthood has brought three lawsuits over Texas’ so-called “affiliate rule,” arguing it violates the constitutional rights of doctors and patients while also contradicting existing state law.
Republican lawmakers who passed the affiliate rule last year have argued that Texas is an anti-abortion state and therefore should cut off funds to groups that support abortion rights. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who vehemently opposes abortion, has pledged to do everything legally possible to shut down Planned Parenthood in Texas and welcomed the court’s ruling.
State officials have also scrambled to sign up doctors and clinics to replace Planned Parenthood.
Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 11, where Planned Parenthood will again ask for an injunction to receive state funding.