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Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Defunding

Planned Parenthood branches across Texas have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent Gov. Rick Perry’s administration from excluding them from a women’s health program.

A month ago, Texas was dropped from a federal program that helps subsidize contraception and reproductive check-ups for poor women. Even though the program has nothing to do with abortion, Perry wanted to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from participating.

Now Planned Parenthood is fighting the move in the federal courts.

Melaney Linton, the new president of Planned Parenthood’s Gulf Coast chapter, said of the filing, “It’s really unfortunate that we had to take this step, but we know that women are depending on us to do everything in our power to help preserve access to family planning services and to preserve their access to be able to go to the provider that they trust.”

Planned Parenthood leaders say that without the funding, clinics in low-income areas like the Rio Grande Valley will have to shut down.

Pete Schenkkan is an Austin attorney who filed the suit, and he says it doesn’t matter how Texas pays for the program: It can’t exclude medical providers simply because they advocate for reproductive rights, or associate with other organizations that do so.

“Even if Texas does a 100 percent state funded program, they don’t get to say ‘Everyone can be in this program as long as they give up their rights to free speech and freedom of association.’ They can’t say that,” Schenkkan said.

But a Perry spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, says Texas will not roll over for this lawsuit.  “We certainly will fight it,” Frazier said. “We believe we’re on the right side of this issue. Planned Parenthood has no entitlement to taxpayer dollars any more than any other private or non-profit organization.”

The lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction by the end of April, which is when Planned Parenthood affiliates will start to lose their funding.

This post is part of a reporting partnership between KUHF,

and Kaiser Health News.