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4:58 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

As Texas Cuts Funds, Planned Parenthood Fights Back

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 8:26 am

Texas Republicans have been trying to figure out a way to defund Planned Parenthood since they captured both legislative bodies and the governor's office in 2002.

Now, the efforts of Gov. Rick Perry and his anti-abortion allies to strip the organization of state funding have led to a legal tussle in federal court.

For Republican politicians in Texas, like Rep. Sid Miller, opposition to the reproductive health organization is a badge of honor.

"In the last budget, I transferred $21 million away from Planned Parenthood," says Miller, who represents a rural Texas district southwest of Fort Worth. "We believe it's inherently wrong to use taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that performs abortions."

None of the dozens of clinics that will lose state funds actually perform abortions. It is already against state and federal law for clinics that perform abortions to receive taxpayer dollars.

But Texas is going a step further, with a law that eliminates funding for women's health clinics that either associate with abortion providers or advocate for abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming these new Texas rules violate the organization's constitutional rights to free association and free speech.

Miller disagrees. "I don't see how any of that even correlates," he says. "We're not stopping them from doing whatever they want to do. They're still free to service women however they want to. We're just saying, 'You're not going to do it with taxpayer dollars.' "

Texas already cut its support statewide for women's health clinics by two-thirds in 2011, eliminating access to family planning services for nearly 300,000 poor and working-class women.

The Texas Legislative Budget Board estimates those cuts will result in roughly 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas currently ranks first among the states in spending on teen births.

But for abortion opponents, the issue is not about money but about keeping Planned Parenthood out of the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides services to low-income women.

"In essence, the rule bars being Planned Parenthood and being in this program," says Helene Krasnoff, a Planned Parenthood lawyer. "It bars it in numerous ways: Because we advocate to protect women's access to safe and legal abortion. It bars it because we associate with entities that engage in that conduct. It bars you from having any relationship with any provider of abortion services."

Essentially, Krasnoff says, "You can't be connected with comprehensive reproductive health care" without running afoul of the law.

Krasnoff says those stipulations go too far. And, she argues, Planned Parenthood's speech and associations have nothing to do with the quality of the health care provided at its clinics. "The government can tell an entity what it can do with government funds," Krasnoff says. "The government can set the rule for its own programs. But it can't disqualify you from the program based on constitutionally protected conduct that you do outside that government program."

Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that Planned Parenthood's claim — that the state of Texas is violating its constitutional rights — was likely to succeed. Yeakel issued an injunction stopping Texas' defunding until he can schedule a trial and hear arguments.

The state has appealed, and the matter is now before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments will be heard the first week of June.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The state of Texas and Planned Parenthood will face off in federal court. Texas Governor Rick Perry and his anti-abortion allies in the Texas House and Senate want to strip Planned Parenthood of its state funding. Planned Parenthood has filed suit, alleging the state is violating its constitutional rights to free association and free speech. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Texas has been trying to figure out a way to de-fund Planned Parenthood since the GOP captured both legislative bodies and the governor's office in 2002. For Republican politicians in Texas, opposition to the women's organization is a badge of honor.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE SID MILLER: In the last budget, I transferred $21 million away from Planned Parenthood.

GOODWYN: State Representative Sid Miller is in rural Texas, southwest of Fort Worth.

MILLER: We believe it is inherently wrong to use taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that performs abortions.

GOODWYN: In fact, none of the dozens of clinics that will lose state funds actually perform abortions. It is already against state and federal law for clinics that perform abortions to receive taxpayer dollars. Texas is going a step further to end funding for women's health clinics which either associate with abortion providers or advocate for abortion rights. Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming these new Texas rules violate the organization's constitutional rights to free association and free speech. Sid Miller disagrees.

MILLER: Well, I don't see how any of that even correlates. We're not stopping them from doing whatever they want to do. They're still free to service women however they want to. We're just saying you're not going to do it with taxpayer dollars.

GOODWYN: Texas already cut its support statewide for women's health clinics by two-thirds last year, eliminating access to family planning services for nearly 300,000 poor and working-class women. The state estimates those cuts will result in roughly 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas is currently number one in spending on teen pregnancies. But for abortion opponents, it's not about the money. It's about not allowing Planned Parenthood into the Texas Women's Health Program. Helene Krasnov is a lawyer for Planned Parenthood.

HELENE KRASNOV: In essence, the rule bars being Planned Parenthood and being in this program. It bars it in numerous ways because we advocate to protect women's access to safe and legal abortion. It bars it because we associate with entities that engage in that conduct. It bars you from having any relationship with any provider of abortion services, so you can't be connected with comprehensive reproductive health care.

GOODWYN: Krasnov says these rules go too far. Texas can't say to women's clinics you can have state funds but only if you agree not to say I support abortion rights. Krasnov asserts Planned Parenthood's speech and associations have nothing to do with the quality of the health care provided at their clinics.

KRASNOV: The government can tell an entity what it can do with the government funds. The government can set the rule for its own programs. But it can't disqualify you from that program based on constitutionally protected conduct that you do outside of that government program.

GOODWYN: Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that Planned Parenthood's claim that Texas is violating its constitutional rights was likely to succeed and issued an injunction. Texas has appealed, and the matter is before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments will be heard the first week of June. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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