April 11, 2012 Print
Texas Flag

Planned Parenthood Sues to Stop Texas From Enforcing Law

by Karla Dial

Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit against Texas today, seeking to block it from enforcing a new law that bans taxpayer funds from going to groups that perform abortions or their affiliates.

According to the suit, if the law is enforced it “could deprive tens of thousands of low-income women seeking family planning and other preventive health services.”

State legislators passed the law in the 2011 session, seeking to completely oust the abortion seller from the state Medicaid program. Despite threats from the Obama administration, the state implemented the law in February.

The Obama administration made good on its threat in March, shutting off the spigot of federal Medicaid funds to the Texas program; that block of $30 milllion makes up 90 percent of the state Medicaid budget. The federal government contends that Medicaid recipients must be able to choose their own “qualified” providers from those willing to offer services, a list which includes Planned Parenthood — and that excluding the group makes the Lone Star State’s law unconstitutional.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, however, has not been cowed: He’s leading the charge for the state, filing a countersuit against the Obama administration last month for cutting off federal funding over the issue.

“Federal law gives the state the right and responsibility to establish criteria for Medicaid providers, so we’re on firm legal ground,” the members of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services wrote in a statement. “We’ll continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office to fully enforce state law and continue federal funding for the Women’s Health Program.”

Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs at with Liberty Institute, a religious-liberties law firm in Plano, predicted that the Lone Star State will ultimately prevail.

“This law and this policy was vetted by lawyers on our staff, by lawyers across the state of Texas and others. Texas has a very strong legal position,” he said. “And at the end of the day Planned Parenthood is going to lose.”

Constitutionally, Saenz said, the 10th Amendment, protecting states’ rights in matters not specifically granted to the federal government, lets Texas have the final word.

“What it boils down to is another ‘Washington versus Texas’ issue,” he said. “Obviously, the Obama administration is supporting Planned Parenthood and wanting their side to prevail. (But) Washington and Planned Parenthood need to butt out.”

Read Texas SB 7.

Read a letter from state Sen. Robert F. Deuell seeking an opinion from state Attorney General Greg Abbot about whether defunding Planned Parenthood is constitutional.

Read Abbott’s response.