It’s hard to follow all the bricks being thrown in the fight between Gov. Rick Perry and Planned Parenthood. However, one thing is for sure: Health care for low-income Texas women has taken a backseat to both sides’ political and ideological maneuvering.
According to the Associated Press, Gov. Rick Perry stood at a health clinic near Georgetown yesterday and announced that Texas was ready to begin using state funds to finance women’s health care initiatives that would take the place of those typically provided by the federal government. But, according to The Texas Tribune, later in the day Stephanie Goodman, a Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman, effectively denied the governor’s claims by clarifying that the state-led program would not begin quite yet.
“We’re continuing with the Medicaid program until [the federal government] cuts off the funding or we have a final court decision that wouldn’t allow us to enforce state law,” Goodman told The Texas Tribune.
The law Goodman is referring to was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, and bars the state from funding organizations that provide abortion services. But the state doesn’t have the resources yet to provide equivalent services to those — unrelated to abortions — now available through Planned Parenthood. Despite Perry’s posturing, the reality is that Texas can’t replace the 90 percent of funding the federal government provides the Texas Women’s Health Program.
And for its part, Planned Parenthood has spent its time in court, asking in September for all the judges at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear its case opposing Texas’ plans after a three-judge panel issued a decision in Planned Parenthood Association, et al. v. Thomas Suehs allowing Texas to block Planned Parenthood and other providers that offer abortions from the program. When the 5th Circuit rejected Planned Parenthood’s request for a full court hearing, the organization went to state court in Austin in late October and persuaded District Judge Amy Clark Meachum to issue a restraining order allowing Planned Parenthood to remain a part of the Texas Women’s Health Program.
There is an alternative route that Planned Parenthood could pursue, according to what UT law professor Stefanie Lindquist, the associate dean for external affairs, told the Daily Texan last September. “It may be possible for the clinics to disassociate from Planned Parenthood in some way to avoid the ‘identifying mark’ but to comply with the [5th Circuit] ruling, they might also have to forgo informing women about their right to an elective abortion,” Lindquist wrote in an email.
Lindquist qualified that suggestion, noting that “The [5th Circuit] panel held that the plaintiff clinics had implicitly conceded that they promote abortion within the meaning of the regulation” and that “… [I]t is hard to tell exactly what options might be available short of litigation.”
With all the bluster and posturing in the court and at press conferences, one notion seems worth underscoring: both sides should compromise and figure out how low-income women in Texas may continue to have the advantage of federal funding for their health care. Meanwhile, Texas politicians, eager to appease a conservative constituency, already have made the point that they don’t like taxpayer dollars going to support abortion clinics. If it takes a name change, so be it. If it takes a governor being less than forthcoming, we’re used to that.