Waco court to decide on injunction in women’s health program case

Dallas Morning NewsDecember 20, 2012Articles

A federal district court will hear on Friday the state’s case for an injunction against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The state last month filed for a preliminary injunction asking the a Waco district court to allow federal dollars to continue to flow to the state-run women’s health program when it launches Jan. 1.

The government’s position has been that federal money will be removed from Texas on Dec. 31 if it chooses to switch exclude Planned Parenthood as an approved provider in the state-run version of the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the federal health program, claims women have a right to choose their approved provider and removing that choice violates their constitutional rights. The federal government currently pays for 90 percent of the $35 million program.

Planned Parenthood currently serves close to half of the state’s 130,000 low income women in the Medicaid program, which provides preventative cancer screenings, birth control and family planning services, but not abortions. The state wishes to defund Planned Parenthood under the abortion affiliates ban because it shares a name with a privately funded arm that offers abortions.

The state’s argues that Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, made an unlawful decision to remove funding because Texas law prohibits taxpayer dollars going to abortion providers and their affiliates. Texas claims dropping the state from the program would be an attempt to coerce the state into repealing its laws.

The state’s filing reads:

“The coercive nature of the Secretary’s decision is aggravated by the fact that she is attempting to exert leverage over the State’s decisions regarding expenditures from its treasury, a matter that is constitutionally immune from federal interference.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services response:

“This Court should deny Texas’s request for emergency injunctive relief because the Court lacks jurisdiction over this case. And, even if the Court had jurisdiction to resolve Texas’s suit (which it does not), the State is unlikely to prevail on the merits of its claims and has failed to show that it will be irreparably harmed absent an injunction.”

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