AUSTIN, Texas — A new Texas law that bars state funds for organizations that perform or promote abortion, including Planned Parenthood, took effect in the state Jan. 1.
The move follows the state’s dispute with the Obama administration that resulted in a denial of millions of dollars in federal funds for a Texas women’s health initiative.
On Dec. 31, a state district judge rejected a Planned Parenthood request for a temporary restraining order against the law, which the state Legislature passed in 2011.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill into law, praised the decision.
He said the ruling “finally clears the way for thousands of low-income Texas women to access much-needed care, while at the same time respecting the values and laws of our state.”
“I applaud all those who stand ready to help these women live healthy lives without sending taxpayer money to abortion providers and their affiliates.”
The Texas Women’s Health Program serves low-income women who would qualify for Medicaid if they become pregnant. It aims to provide about 110,000 women aged 18-44 with health exams, basic health care and some family-planning services, the Texas Tribune reports.
The program has now added treatment for some sexually transmitted diseases.
The state of Texas says that the new restrictions on funding for abortion providers means that about 20,000 women who used services at Planned Parenthood must now find a new health-care provider.
Planned Parenthood says 48,000 of the women participating in the health program receive services from the organization. It says it is the only or main provider of women’s health services in many rural communities.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s website said that for every clinic that does not qualify for state funds under the new rule, there are five family-planning clinics and more than 70 individual physicians in the program.
Commission spokeswoman Linda Edwards Gockel told the Texas Tribune that the program now has greater capacity than it did when it was funded by Medicaid.
The federal government had previously provided $9 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds, totaling about $30 million per year.
The Obama administration cut off the funds in March 2012, saying that federal law says that patients are allowed to choose their health-care providers. The administration has sought to oppose or sidestep similar efforts to deny state funds to abortion providers in Indiana and New Hampshire.
The Texas Catholic Conference supported the state law barring funds for abortion providers.
“By insisting that the state of Texas cannot direct funds to thousands of providers statewide who offer true, comprehensive, women’s health care — and instead require Medicaid funds to go to prop up 44 Planned Parenthood clinics — the federal government risks removing preventative health care from hundreds of thousands of women in Texas,” the conference said March 7, 2012.
One Texas Planned Parenthood organization faces charges of Medicare fraud.
A whistleblower lawsuit has charged that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, filed at least 87,000 false, fraudulent or ineligible claims with the Texas Woman’s Health Program and wrongfully received reimbursements of more than $5.7 million between 2007 and 2009.
The Alliance Defending Freedom legal group filed the suit in 2009 on behalf of Abby Johnson, former director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The suit was not made public until March 2012.
In October 2011, another former Planned Parenthood employee in Texas, Karen Reynolds, filed an updated legal complaint that said in her 10 years as a Planned Parenthood health-center assistant she was instructed to maximize billing revenue when the government was paying through Medicaid and the Women’s Health Program.
The American Center for Law and Justice is handling Reynolds’ suit.