AUSTIN (CN) - Texas illegally excluded Planned Parenthood from a state program that provides preventive health care services to poor women, the group claims in state and federal lawsuits.
Six Planned Parenthood groups and the Family Planning Associates of San Antonio sued Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, in Federal Court.
Seven Planned Parenthood groups filed a similar complaint in Travis County Court.
This article is based on the federal complaint.
The Texas Women's Health Plan (TWHP) is a "'successor program' to the Women's Health Program (WHP) ... which the plaintiffs have participated [in] since its inception, providing family planning and preventive health services to nearly half of the more than 100,000 low-income women enrolled statewide. Defendant proposed TWHP because the federal government refused to renew the Medicaid waiver required for the federal funding of WHP due to defendant's exclusion of plaintiffs from WHP," the complaint states.
Planned Parenthood claims the new program unconstitutionally disqualifies it from providing preventive services - including physical exams, screenings for breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections - because of an eligibility requirement stating that a "provider must ensure that: (1) the provider does not perform or promote elective abortions outside the scope of the TWHP and is not an affiliate of an entity that performs or promotes elective abortions."
Planned Parenthood claims it "does not perform abortions, but it advocates to protect and facilitate access to safe and legal abortions for women who chose to exercise their right to choose. Defendant has taken the position that such advocacy, and using or being authorized to use that name, constitute promotion of abortion.
"All but one plaintiff has a legal relationship, which is created or governed by at least one written document, with an entity that provides abortion care and that advertises that it provides those services. Although these plaintiffs and their related abortion providers have easily distinguishable names, these plaintiffs are 'affiliates' of abortion providers that use the registered service mark 'Planned Parenthood.'"
The plaintiffs claim "although plaintiffs are all legally and financially separate from any entity that performs abortions, and they do not encourage women to have abortions, the TWHP rules appear to bar them from the program based on these legal relationships."
Ninety percent of the services provided under the program are reimbursable, and "plaintiffs' combined reimbursements from WHP totaled approximately $13 million during 2011," the complaint states. "WHP reimbursements are already not adequate to cover plaintiffs' costs of providing these services, and the loss of this funding will severely impact their operating budgets. Without this funding, plaintiffs will be forced to reduce services, close health centers, and/or lay off employees."
The complaint adds: "At a minimum, many of plaintiffs' WHP patients will have to travel further (at greater expense to them) and/or wait longer for appointments. Delays in seeking testing and treatment for cancer as well as STIs will have devastating health consequences for some of these women. Lack of access and delays in receiving family planning services can be expected to lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and, in turn, to an increase in abortions."
The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment that the sections of the TWHP excluding Planned Parenthood from funding are unconstitutional, and a permanent injunction preventing enforcement.
Planned Parenthood is represented by P.M. Schenkkan, with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon and Moody, of Austin.