FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 11, 2012
Planned Parenthood Seeks Injunction against Unconstitutional
Rule Blocking Participation in the Women’s Health Program
Protecting access to affordable health care for Texan women is #1 priority
Austin, TX – To protect Texan women’s access to basic, preventive health services, Planned Parenthood today sued the state Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in federal court, asking the court to enter a preliminary injunction that will stop enforcement of the unconstitutional rule excluding Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Women’s Health Program.
“Ensuring every patient continues to receive affordable family planning services and basic preventive health care, without interruption, is always our primary concern. Planned Parenthood will continue to stand up for Texans’ right to access affordable, quality reproductive health care,” said Patricio Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County. “Women in Texas need more access to affordable, high-quality health care — not less.”
In the lawsuit filed today, the Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates argue that the rule, which was purposefully designed to make them ineligible to continue to participate in the Women’s Health Program, violates their constitutional rights because it imposes an unconstitutional condition on their participation in the program and thereby harms the tens of thousands of low-income women who rely on them for basic, preventive health care. The lawsuit also claims that the rule violates Texas state law because the Health and Human Services Commission overstepped its authority in adopting a rule that conflicts with the purpose of the laws that created the program.
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas are being represented by attorneys from the Texas firm Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, and are joined by Planned Parenthood Federation of America attorneys in the suit.
In Texas, the Women’s Health Program is fundamental to improving the health of Texan women, serving as a vital source of health care coverage for women of all ages. Currently more than one-quarter of Texan women are uninsured, and women in Texas have the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the U.S.
“Planned Parenthood is very important to me and my family. When my mom was my age and pregnant, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at Planned Parenthood. They helped her with additional testing and a referral to where she could get treated,” said Rene Resendez, a 24-year-old uninsured student from West Texas who has relied on Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Health Program since 2007. “Without the Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood, I don’t know what I would do, or where I would go for the cancer screenings I know I need. Planned Parenthood has been a place my family can trust and I should be able to decide who provides my healthcare.”
Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas have been critical to the success of the Women’s Health Program. Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of care within the Women’s Health Program and consistently delivers high-quality care to low-income women. In fact, over 40 percent of the women who receive services through WHP chose to rely on a Planned Parenthood health center.
“Planned Parenthood belongs in the Women’s Health Program and is standing up for tens of thousands of their patients today,” said Randall Ellis, senior director of Government Relations at Legacy Community Health Services, a federally qualified health center in Houston. “It takes the entire spectrum of providers, including Planned Parenthood, to meet the needs of the growing population of low-income Texans without access to reproductive and other basic health care services.”
If the new rule is enforced, Planned Parenthood would be barred from participating in WHP after April 30, leaving tens of thousands of Texan women unable to obtain preventive health care services from the health care provider of their choice.
“This rule impermissibly penalizes Planned Parenthood, and has the effect of restricting Texans’ access to health care,” said Pete Schenkkan, attorney with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody. “We are asking the court to ensure Planned Parenthood can continue to provide Women’s Health Program services to these women.”
For a copy of the Filed Complaint, please click here.
FACT: The federal government, which until now has covered 90 percent of the cost of this program, made clear to Texas — and to all 50 states — that a rule excluding a comprehensive women’s health care provider like Planned Parenthood restricts the rights of patients and would not be allowed in the Medicaid program. Nonetheless, Texas has proceeded with this unconstitutional rule, resulting in its losing the federal funds.
FACT: Planned Parenthood health centers that contract with the state for family planning grant funds and/or participate in the Women’s Health Program are legally and financially separate from Planned Parenthood health centers that provide safe and legal abortions. Moreover, consistent with federal and state law, at no Planned Parenthood facility are Women’s Health Program funds “used to perform or promote elective abortions.”
FACT: Despite this arrangement that makes plain that Women’s Health Program funding is used exactly as Texas wants, HHSC nonetheless appears willing to deny health care to the tens of thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood through this program. This decision comes after budget cuts passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Perry have reduced the state’s family planning program by more than two-thirds. These cuts are projected to take health care away from 160,000 women per year. The preventive services that women are losing access to as a result of these budget cuts include Pap tests, clinical breast exams, and birth control.
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