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Correction: Texas-Women's Health Program story

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm •  Published: January 16, 2013
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Kyle Janek, executive commissioner of the state Health and Human Services Commission, applauded the court's decision.

"This allows us to continue to provide important family planning and preventive care to low-income women and fully enforce state law," Janek said in a statement. "We've got the Texas Women's Health Program up and running, and we'll continue to provide help to any woman who needs to find a new doctor or clinic."

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law in 2011 excluding providers that support abortion rights — which almost exclusively affected Planned Parenthood — from the program.

Patricio Gonzales, chief executive of four Planned Parenthood clinics along the Texas-Mexico border, testified Friday that returning to the program is crucial because 50 percent of his budget comes from state reimbursements. Unless other funding is obtained, Gonzales said, only one of his clinics will remain open come April.

"We have been able to refer some of them to other providers," Gonzales said. "Other clients have been very upset. Some of them have stayed and paid a full fee."

The state's exclusion of providers that support abortion rights — the so-called "affiliate ban rule" — has been mired in multiple lawsuits since the Legislature passed the new law.

State attorneys have made a "poison pill" argument, saying allowing Planned Parenthood back into the program would cause the whole program to shut down since the new rules don't allow abortion affiliates to participate.

From the start, Planned Parenthood has argued it was uniquely essential to the program because its clinics in 2012 provided services to nearly half of all Texas women enrolled in the program.

State health officials say they've recruited more new providers than ever and that former Planned Parenthood patients will easily be able to find the same services elsewhere.

Joseph Potter, a University of Texas sociology professor studying the impact of the changes, also testified Friday for Planned Parenthood. He said finding a new clinic or getting there isn't easy for low-income patients who are less likely to have a car or money for transportation.

"When women have to find a new provider, it's a surprisingly big deal," Potter said.

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Follow Paul J. Weber at http://www.twitter.com/pauljweber