Court Allows Texas To Cut Off Women’s Health Funding, Leaving Doctors And Low-Income Women In A Lurch

Back in March, the federal government cut Texas’ Medicaid funding for the state’s Women’s Health Program (WHP) after Texas officials barred any “abortion affiliates” from the health program for low-income women. Because WHP is a joint federal-state program, states cannot to block any specific provider. By trying to force Planned Parenthood out of the system, Texas forfeited its right to receive such funding. And the state even has gone so far as to stop doctors from talking about abortion.

In response, Planned Parenthood sued the state of Texas, saying that Texas’s decision violated the first and 14th amendments, and a Texas judge issued an injunction to stop the law from taking affect.

But last night, the Fifth Circuit appeals court lifted the injunction, siding with the state of Texas and ensuring that Texas will receive no federal funds for its WHP, which services low-income women who cannot afford care. Though the state’s Gov. Rick Perry (R) has vowed to keep the program going, his math on how to do that is fuzzy at best.

Here are some of the ways Texans will suffer from the decision defund anyone associated with abortion:

Doctors won’t be able to tell patients all of their options. Because of the wording of Texas’s directive, doctors who receive Texas’s WHP funding are banned from “promoting” abortion, which could include even bringing up the option of termination in conversation with a patient — even if it’s the patient herself who brings it up.

About 52,000 women who rely on Planned Parenthood will lose service. Tens of thousands of Texas women rely on public funding to get regular preventative checkups, cancer screenings, and gynecological care, and 52,000 of those rely on Planned Parenthood specifically. Following the court’s decision, those women will lose their care providers.

Remaining providers will have to take five times the number of patients. To keep up with the increased demand of women who will lose their providers, clinics that are still eligible for WHP funding will have to take about five times the number of low-income patients.

Planned Parenthood isn’t the only clinic that’s feeling the effects. Fifty other unaffiliated women’s health clinics have been forced to shutter because of a lack of state funding. Other clinics have managed to stay open but, with limited funding available, are confining their services, covering smaller swaths of the state and providing care to fewer women.

Planned Parenthood may appeal the fifth circuit’s decision, but have not yet moved to do so publicly. In a press release, the organization’s president Cecile Richards said, “We are evaluating every possible option to protect women’s health in Texas.”