The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas can cut off funding to Planned Parenthood's family planning programs for poor women, a state judge ruled Monday.
Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said he brought the lawsuit on behalf of poor women who depend on its clinics.
"It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women," Lambrecht said. "Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their well-being."
Planned Parenthood has brought three lawsuits over Texas' so-called "affiliate rule," arguing it violates the constitutional rights of doctors and patients while also contradicting existing state law.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has spent the last nine months preparing to implement the affiliate rule. But federal officials warned it violated the Social Security Act and cut off federal funds for the Women's Health Program, prompting the commission to start a new program using only state money.
State officials have also scrambled to sign up new doctors and clinics to replace Planned Parenthood. Women who previously went to Planned Parenthood clinics will now have to use the agency's web site to find a new state-approved doctor.
On Friday, HHSC officials acknowledged they are unsure whether the new doctors can pick up Planned Parenthood's caseload in all parts of the state.
Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokesman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said Monday that the new state program will launch as planned on Tuesday.
"We have more than 3,500 doctors, clinics and other providers in the program and will be able to continue to provide women with family planning services while fully complying with state law," she said. "We welcome Planned Parenthood's help in referring patients to providers in the new program."
Democratic lawmakers continued to question whether women will have to wait longer for appointments and services.
"I vehemently disagree with the state's efforts to blacklist a qualified provider and, thereby, interfere with a woman's right to choose her own provider," said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. "I will be submitting a letter to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, requesting a list of approved providers to gauge the outreach of the new program, and ensure that all qualified women throughout the state have access to its services."
Another hearing is scheduled with a different judge for Jan. 11, where Planned Parenthood will again ask for an injunction to receive state funding.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.