AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas District Judge Steve Yelenosky has issued an injunction that will keep Planned Parenthood in the Women's Health Program pending resolution of the organization's lawsuit claiming a rule banning it violates state law.
The organization had asked Yelenosky to extend a temporary order issued two weeks ago that stopped Texas from defunding clinics and doctors that have ties to groups that provide abortions. A new rule, which took effect this month, would effectively deny critical funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide preventive health care and contraception services to poor women, even though they do not provide abortions and are financially separate institutions.
Unless overturned on appeal, the injunction will remain in effect until a trial can decide Planned Parenthood's lawsuit. Yelenosky decided Thursday that Planned Parenthood has a reasonable chance to win its lawsuit and that allowing the rule to go into effect would cause irreparable harm to the organization.
Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, said the state would immediately appeal Yelenosky's decision.
Planned Parenthood attorneys recently lost a federal lawsuit that hinged on a doctor's right to freedom of speech and association. The argument before Yelenosky on Thursday hinged on whether the so-called "affiliate rule" could result in the loss of federal funding for health care.
Steve McKetta, arguing for Planned Parenthood, explained that a section of Texas law clearly states that any rule that violates federal law, and therefore endangers federal matching funds, is automatically inoperable. He said lawmakers have made it clear that the state Department of Health and Human Services should do everything possible to gain federal matching funds for health programs.
The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter to state officials Wednesday that said the affiliate rule violates federal law, and therefore the center was cutting off $36 million a year for the Women's Health Program on Dec. 31. McKetta said that since the affiliate rule led to the end of federal funding, it should not be enforced.