Posts Tagged ‘planned parenthood’

Texas abortion drug bill could mean more side effects and higher costs

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

A GOP lawmaker is looking to make Texas the latest state to restrict the use of abortion medications in a way that some experts warn could increase the drugs’ side effects while making them more expensive. (more…)

Texas lawmaker seeks to reverse Planned Parenthood ban

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by Mary Tuma 6 Comments

A Texas lawmaker introduced legislation earlier this week that would nullify a controversial rule banning abortion affiliates from participating in a Medicaid program that offers reproductive health care to low-income women. (more…)

Texas health commissioner: database errors are a ‘real problem’

Posted on: November 1st, 2012 by Mary Tuma No Comments

Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek. Photo via the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Texas health commissioner Kyle Janek said Wednesday that errors in a state-crafted database intended to help women find reproductive health care providers are “a real problem.” (more…)

‘Why are they making this more difficult for us?’

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by Mary Tuma 4 Comments

Crystal Gonzalez sits in a McAllen, Texas, coffee shop while searching for a new health care provider. Photo by Mary Tuma.

When Texas decided to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from its Medicaid-funded women’s health care program, women like Crystal Gonzalez were left scrambling for a new provider. (more…)

Anti-abortion scholar: Restrictions should be designed to raise costs for women

Posted on: September 21st, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 6 Comments

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Anti-abortion restrictions should be designed to raise “the costs” of abortions in order to discourage women from obtaining them, a prominent scholar for a leading anti-abortion group told an audience of social conservative activists in Washington last weekend. (more…)

Health experts challenge coerced-abortion laws

Posted on: August 29th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 38 Comments

Anti-abortion protest (Flickr/Anna Levinzon)

On a Friday morning in September 2005, 22-year-old Brittany Wilson sat in a Planned Parenthood clinic a mile away from her home in Sioux Falls, S.D., and bawled her eyes out. (more…)

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)

Judge with history of disparaging women stays state appeal to exclude Planned Parenthood from WHP

Posted on: May 1st, 2012 by Mary Tuma 3 Comments

A court ruling issued yesterday that would have stopped Texas from implementing a ban on Planned Parenthood providers in the Women’s Health Program (WHP) is now obsolete. The state quickly appealed the ruling just hours after it was announced and received a stay on the preliminary injunction the same day, giving reproductive rights advocates less than 24 hours to celebrate. Texas is now able to exclude Planned Parenthood from the life-saving WHP, shutting out tens of thousands of low-income women who rely on the clinics for basic reproductive health care.

“The ruling allows the state to fully enforce state law today and exclude abortion providers from the Women’s Health Program. As of today, abortion providers and affiliates aren’t eligible to bill the state for Women’s Health Program services,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner (HHSC) spokesperson Stephanie Goodman in an e-mail.

Yesterday’s ruling concluded that Texas’ ban on allowing Planned Parenthood providers to participate in the WHP because they affiliate with abortion services would pose “substantial and irreparable harm,” to hundreds of thousands of low-income women. It violates the provider’s First Amendment rights and ultimately fails to serve the public interest, Bush-appointed Judge Lee Yeakel ruled. In response, Attorney General Greg Abbott writes in the appeal that the state and the women of Texas who depend on the WHP would be, “irreparably harmed” because state law prohibits Texas from continuing to operate the program, “if taxpayer money must be provided to entities that affiliate with abortion-promoting entities,”–  despite the fact no taxpayer money is allowed to go toward abortions and no clinic in the program actually provide abortion services.

The appeal takes sharp aim at blaming Planned Parenthood for its response. “Consequently, the district court’s preliminary injunction effectively forces Texas to choose between contravening state law and shutting down the program,” Abbott writes. “This emergency situation is of Planned Parenthood’s own making. Planned Parenthood has been on notice of the state law at the heart of this suit for months.” Similarly, Texas has been on notice by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid which warned the state it would lose all federal funding if the rule excluding Planned Parenthood– a provider of the program since its inception some five years ago– goes into effect, but the state remained steadfast in arguing its right to exclude the clinics, in the face of federal law.

Sarah Wheat, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Austin, is confident Yeakel’s ruling will hold if the issue sees a full trial. (A May 18 pretrial conference date to decide when a full trial will begin is scheduled, but that may change as events evolve.)

“We are disappointed in the stay granted last night, but we will be responding [later] today. We are optimistic that when the State’s motion for a stay is fully considered, the District Court’s order that Texas cannot prevent Planned Parenthood from providing cancer screenings, birth control, screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes, and STD testing as part of the Women’s Health Program will stand,” she said in a statement. “When presented with both sides, the District Court agreed the rule was likely unconstitutional, and that implementation would cause a serious problem with health care access for Texas women.”

On behalf of HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs, Abbott filed the emergency motion to stay Monday evening in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Jerry Smith– a former Harris County GOP chairman, Republican activist and oil-industry lawyer, appointed to the bench by former President Ronald Reagan– granted the stay. While an April Associated Press article describes Smith as a non-partisan figure, the judge came under fire for “disparaging comments” he reportedly made about women during his time as GOP county chairman.

A July 1987 article in the Houston Chronicle says Smith had labeled feminists as a “gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects” [with "perverted views”] and referred to the League of Women Voters as the “Plague of Women Voters.”

Upon retrieval of the 1987 article, The Texas Independent additionally notes Smith is also reported to have made attempts to, “get a black woman judge removed from a minority rights case.” Combined with his criticism of women, civil rights and feminist organizations “immediately questioned or spoke out against” his nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Linda Berg, counsel for the national office of NOW told the Houston Chronicle at the time, “He clearly is very insensitive, at least in the past he has shown himself insensitive, to minority rights and women’s rights. He has been involved in some controversial actions that upset women’s and civil rights groups in Houston.”

In January, Smith was part of the three-judge panel that upheld Texas’ controversial pre-abortion sonogram law, a move that overturned a U.S. district judge’s ruling that found the law unconstitutional. Basing the decision largely on moral grounds, Smith helped strike a preliminary injunction on the sonogram law, a ruling heralded by Gov. Rick Perry and state anti-abortion advocates. Undergoing an abortion is “a difficult and painful moral decision,” the judges concluded at the time, “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude that some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

According to a 1996 Austin American-Statesman article retrieved via Lexis-Nexis, Smith dismissed a damage suit by a Texas mother who sued school officials in Bryan for not protecting her two middle-school age daughters from sexual harassment by boys on the school bus. The girls allegedly, “had endured nine months of repeated taunts, groping and grabbing,” while riding the bus. ”The mere existence of sexual harassment does not necessarily constitute sexual discrimination,” the Judge wrote for the Fifth Circuit Court.

Planned Parenthood is expected to file a brief later today. To read a copy of the state’s stay request, click here.