GEORGETOWN, Texas (AP) — Planned Parenthood will continue to receive funds from a joint Texas and federal program providing health care to low-income women, despite the state's promise to exclude its clinics by Nov. 1 because they are affiliated with abortion providers.
Gov. Rick Perry has pledged to boot Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women's Health Program after the Republican-dominated Legislature in 2011 reinstated a law prohibiting state funds from going to organizations linked to abortion providers. The federal government funds 90 percent of the program, which costs around $40 million annually, but the Obama administration claimed the Texas law violates federal rules — prompting Perry to vow to use only state money to keep the program going.
The governor traveled to a health clinic north of Austin on Wednesday to announce that the state is ready to begin a program with only Texas funds starting Thursday. Health and Human Service Commissioner Kyle Janek said the program will not begin operating immediately and may not take effect until the end of the year since Texas expects federal funding to continue at least until Dec. 31.
Janek said the state has signed up enough health care providers to launch a state-funded program, but acknowledged his agency is still verifying they have the capacity to take on the 50,000 patients currently treated by Planned Parenthood.
Complicating matters are three lawsuits that remain unresolved. A state judge last week temporarily ordered the state to include Planned Parenthood in the program as long as it collects federal funds. The judge scheduled a hearing in that case for Nov. 8.
Janek said he is hopeful the courts will side with the state and allow the exclusion of Planned Parenthood. He said he also hopes the federal government will continue funding the Women's Health Program, even with the ban on groups linked to abortion providers in place. If the courts decide in the state's favor, then a new state-funds-only program will be unnecessary.
"The state program is ready to go, but we're continuing in the federal program until such time that the courts say 'you either let in Planned Parenthood or other affiliate groups,' or 'stop the program entirely,'" Janek said.
Still, even if Texas loses in court, it is assuming the federal government will not halt funding until the end of year, despite its previous assurances that officials would be ready to run the program using only state funds by Thursday. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.