Posts Tagged ‘naral pro-choice texas’

Citing “important precedent” neglected by state officials, three judge panel temporarily reinstates Planned Parenthood in WHP

Posted on: May 8th, 2012 by Mary Tuma 3 Comments

After a tumultuous week for the fate of reproductive care in Texas, Planned Parenthood will remain in the Women’s Health Program (WHP)– at least for now.

Just hours after an initial federal court ruling last Monday that deemed Texas’ controversial decision to block the centers from the WHP unconstitutional, a single judge quickly reversed the temporary injunction in a move being called “very rare” and “highly unusual.” The legal battle took another twist two days later when a three-judge appeals panel struck that order down and reinstated Planned Parenthood into the program, pending oral arguments and eventually a full trial.

In its May 4 briefing, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel–which includes the judge who granted the state’s emergency stay–slammed Texas for continually omitting “important precedent” in its attempt to enforce the ban. While the state is fighting to keep Planned Parenthood from participating in the federally subsidized low-income reproductive health services program because it provides abortions, the panel noted a significant 2007 Fifth Circuit case that makes clear Planned Parenthood abortion services operate as wholly separate operations from family planning services and is thus able to receive public funding– a case never mentioned by Texas officials in their court proceedings.

Our conclusion rests in part on the state’s continuing reluctance to address the obviously relevant opinion in [Planned Parenthood of Central Texas vs Sanchez]. Despite the plaintiffs’ and the district court’s having relied extensively on that authority, which binds this panel to the extent it is applicable, the state never mentioned it (as far as we can tell from the record) in the district court and did not refer to it in any way in its motion for stay pending appeal. Nor has the state sought leave to supplement its submission with a response to Sanchez the plaintiffs’ focus on the affidavit referred to above.

Blake Rocap, legislative counsel with reproductive rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas says the state’s refusal to take Sanchez into account is significant and ushers in further criticism that the legal battle is fueled by ideology rather than concern for women’s health.

“The three-judge panel commented on the Attorney General’s failure to address this specific and relevant precedent in their briefing– another indication that this is not about upholding law or women’s access to health care but is much more about politics,” said Rocap.

Echoing plaintiff concerns, the panel also called into question the state’s need for an emergency stay to reverse the initial court ruling. Requested by Attorney General Greg Abbott, the stay was granted within 24 hours by Judge Jerry Smith, a former GOP county chair and Republican activist with a controversial history of disparaging women, the Texas Independent previously reported. The urgency of the stay relied on the claim that preventing the ban would force Texas to cease operating the WHP  “upon termination of federal funding.” But funding will continue until November 2012, the briefing points out, invalidating the state’s argument.

This supplemental filing undermines the State’s assertion of irreparable harm if the injunction is not stayed pending appeal. Regarding the balance of the merits, we cannot conclude, on the present state of the record, that the State has shown a great likelihood, approaching a near certainty, that the district court abused its discretion in entering the injunction.

An ‘emergency stay’ is normally reserved for situations that would cause irreparable harm, says Wayne Krause-Wang, legal director with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The cases must qualify as exceptional circumstances with severe time constraints– the state’s claim for such an emergency is questionable, he argues, considering its lack of proof of damage.

“It was certainly a tactic within the ability of the state of Texas to pursue,” said Krause-Wang. “It makes sense to apply for an emergency stay if you have the evidence to back it up, in this case it didn’t appear the state had the evidence, and that’s what the three judge panel ended up ruling at the end.”

“In retrospect the state’s argument of irreparable harm doesn’t seem to be viable. Ironically, it is a little disingenuous to say the state would be harmed by their own voluntary decision to cut off the Women’s Health Program, I think that’s turning the argument on its head,” he added.

Rocap called the emergency order “especially duplicitous.”

“Planned Parenthood has served as the largest provider of these services in the WHP since 2005 without incident, yet these anti-choice politicians are now declaring that it is an “Emergency” to exclude them because they exercise their First Amendment rights to affiliate with advocates of safe legal abortion,”  he said. “Given no injury has been shown over the past seven years of Planned Parenthood’s participation, it is clear that the true emergency is that this is an election year and again we are seeing politicians put the health of their political careers ahead of the health of women.”

The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), which days earlier indicated it would shut out Planned Parenthood, is now prohibited from enforcing the ban. The district court will decide on a definitive trial start date on May 18. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the state’s appeal of the temporary injunction during the week of June 4.

“We will comply with the court’s order as the case proceeds,” said HHSC spokesperson Stephanie Goodman. “We also will continue to work toward a state program that provides women with access to vital family planning services and complies with the law that bans abortion providers from getting those funds.”

Read the court of appeals document here.

(Photo Source: Flickr/WeNews)

NARAL: Texas’ Alternatives to Abortion program is bad policy

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Mary Tuma No Comments

Image by Matt MahurinWhile a group of crisis pregnancy center (CPC) operators and religious organizations hopes to overturn a City of Austin ordinance meant to make their mission more transparent — requiring them to post signs advising that they don’t make referrals to abortion providers or offer contraception — a new fact sheet by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas details a history of misleading practices at CPCs around the state. (more…)

While Texas CPCs get more money, welfare programs they refer to are cut

Posted on: September 21st, 2011 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment

As The American Independent has reported, Texas’ six-year-old Alternatives to Abortion program has consistently received increases in state funding, while organizations that provide reproductive-health and family-planning services for the uninsured has steadily decreased. This year, the state Legislature did more than cut family-planning funding, however. It also cut billions of dollars from social-service programs that crisis pregnancy centers and maternity houses refer to under the directive of Alternatives to Abortion.

The services — nutritional supplements through the Women, Infants, Children program (WIC); free medical care through Medicaid; children’s health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) program – benefit Texans in need. In Alternatives to Abortion evaluation reports produced for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), one of the main services highlighted for each entity that receives state money for this program is referrals for state social-service programs.

For Texas’ 2012-2013 biennium budget, the state Legislature:

  • cut family planning funding, from approximately $111.5 million to $37.9 million,
  • raised Alternative to Abortion funding, from $8 million to $8.3 million,
  • left the state’s Medicaid funding about $4.8 billion short of full funding (though, as The Washington Post recently reported, a lot of this money will likely have to come out of the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”).

After the Alternatives to Abortion program was created, HHSC commissioned site-evaluation reports from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN), the nonprofit contracted by the state to manage and disperse funding to currently 33 CPC and maternity agencies (about 44 individual sites total).

In a collection of site reports from June 2005 to October 2010 – previously obtained by The Texas Independent — the most common services, as documented by TPCN, included “counseling and mentoring”; education classes on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and adoption; assistance with food, shelter, clothing and medical care; and referrals to other community resources.

A frequent phrase found in the reports: “The Center receives client referrals from local churches and schools, and makes referrals to local adoption agencies and community services like WIC Program” (San Martin de Porres House of Hope in El Paso), or “The Center makes referrals to State services like Food Stamps, WIC Program, Community Health Clinics, Attorney General’s Office Child Support Enforcement, Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (Gabriel Project Life Center in Austin and Bryan).

On subsidized centers’ individual websites — such as those of Gabriel Project Life Center, A Woman’s Haven in San Antonio and Austin LifeCare in Austin – under “Services,” they commonly list referrals to state health and social-service programs.

Last month, state Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) wrote an editorial in the Houston Chronicle, criticizing the GOP-dominated Legislature’s final budgetary decisions, claiming the family-planning cuts “could also mean more than 20,000 additional unplanned pregnancies – which means more emergency Medicaid births, more parents dependent on CHIP, WIC and Medicaid, and an increase in abortions in Texas.”

While these programs to which Alternatives to Abortion frequently refers women have faced deep budget cuts, the Alternatives to Abortion program, particularly its staff, has been relatively insulated from the same treatment. As The Texas Independent has previously reported, TPCN’s reimbursement rate is higher than what the state pays, under Medicaid, for nurses to provide family-planning services. The rate is also higher than the Medicaid rate for therapy sessions with master’s-level social workers.

According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities (PDF), Texas Medicaid funding, as it currently stands, provides “basic health care and life-saving supports” for:

  • Nearly all Texans with intellectual disabilities and other serious lifelong or childhood-acquired disabilities
  • 55 percent of Texas babies who receive prenatal care and delivery from Medicaid and CHIP
  • 2.5 million kids (3 million with CHIP)
  • Hundreds of thousands of seniors and Texans with disabilities who avoid institutional care through Medicaid community supports
  • More than 1,600 women every month who are undergoing treatment for breast or cervical cancer

As Texas cuts family-planning funding, more goes to crisis-pregnancy services

Posted on: September 20th, 2011 by Sofia Resnick 3 Comments

Image by Matt MahurinWith presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s blessing, as of this month, Texas women’s health clinics and hospitals that provide medical and reproductive health services to low-income, uninsured women across the state have collectively lost approximately $74 million in state funding. Meanwhile, a state network of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) (more…)

Texas bill defines ‘Moment That Life Begins,’ aims at eliminating abortion

Posted on: February 7th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel 3 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinIf approved by Texas lawmakers, the Bill Burch Act will eliminate abortion in the state and nation — at least, that’s what Bill Burch says. The Act, filed by state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) as House Bill 1109, stipulates that human life “begins at the moment that the initial splitting of a human cell occurs during fertilization.”

“With that definition, you can’t have abortion,” said Burch, chairman and president of conservative group Grass Roots Institute of Texas. (more…)