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Court: Texas Can Defund Planned Parenthood

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over a new law that bans state money from going to organizations tied to abortion providers.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge’s temporary injunction that called for the funding to continue pending an October trial on Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the law.

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State officials sought to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services to poor women as part of the Texas Women’s Health Program after the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to organizations linked to abortion providers. No state money goes to pay for abortions.

The appeal’s court decision means Texas is now free to enforce its ban on clinics affiliated with abortion providers. Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings and other services — but not abortions — to about half of the 130,000 low-income Texas women enrolled in the program, which is designed to provide services to women who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

The ruling is the latest in the ongoing fight over Texas’ efforts to halt funding to clinics affiliated with abortion providers. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said that the new state rule violates federal law. Federal funds paid for 90 percent, or about $35 million, of the $40 million Women’s Health Program until the new rule went into effect. Federal officials are now phasing out support for the program.

Gov. Rick Perry has promised that Texas will make up for the loss of federal funds to keep the program going without Planned Parenthood’s involvement. State officials have said ending the program would result in more unplanned pregnancies that would cost the state much more than self-financing the program.

In a statement, Perry called Tuesday’s ruling “a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”

“Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program,” the governor said.

Pro-life groups praised the court ruling.

“So far, President Obama has been able to rely only upon his executive office and the courts in order to force taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood against the will of state legislators,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Ignoring grassroots is a losing game.”

Dannenfelser said states like Texas should have the right to prioritize their health care funding — especially in the middle of a financial crisis.

“The Fifth Circuit court and, we believe, others will reveal this further. Abortion-centered organizations like Planned Parenthood do not deserve taxpayer dollars,” she said.