Texas Defends Pro-Life Law before three-judge appeals court panel

By Dave Andrusko

Judge E. Grady Jolly

The state of Texas Thursday defended a rule that disqualify abortion business affiliates from participating in the state’s Women’s Health Program, asking a three-judge panel to lift the injunction that prevents the state Health and Human Services Commission from enforcing the rule.

Planned Parenthood has dodged the ban on abortion providers or their affiliates participating in the Women’s Health Program (WHP) that has existed since 2005. Last year Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion that found that it violated no federal law or the U.S. Constitution to bar these organizations from participating.  

In February, the state again adopted rules. The goal was to enforce the rule that would bar Planned Parenthood health clinics that do not perform abortions from participating in the WHP because they are affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America which does provide abortions and advocates to keep abortion legal.

Pro-abortionists challenged the rule in court.  A series of back and forth rulings left the original injunction, issued by U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel, in place.

Yeakel had concluded the rule violated Planned Parenthood’s rights of free speech and association. “By requiring plaintiffs to certify that they do not ‘promote’ elective abortions and that they do not ‘affiliate’ with entities that perform or promote elective abortions … Texas is reaching beyond the scope of the government program and penalizing plaintiffs for their protected conduct.”

Yesterday Assistant Solicitor General Kristofer Monson told the panel, “The state has the ability to restrict how a WHP entity identifies itself when it is providing services to Texas citizens,” the Associated Press reported.  The AP added

“Monson said the eight clinics suing the commission qualify as ‘affiliating’ with an abortion-promoting entity under the new rule because they use the Planned Parenthood registered service mark. But the clinics would be eligible to participate in the program if they dropped Planned Parenthood from the names of their groups, Monson said.

“’There is a route to continue to maintain affiliation and continue to receive WHP funding,’ he said.”

Planned Parenthood attorney Helene Krasnoff countered that  the name change wasn’t enough to satisfy the rule, arguing, “The state has stood here today and rewritten the rule.”

The AP story indicated there was back and forth over Krasnoff ‘s contention that “the clinics receiving WHP funds are legally and financially separate from any entity that provides abortions, although some of the clinics share office space with the abortion-providing entities.” Two justices “pressed Krasnoff on the possible implications of that space-sharing arrangement.”

Judge E. Grady Jolly, for example, “questioned whether Planned Parenthood is so synonymous with abortion that the clinics’ participation in the state-run program interferes with the state’s interest in reducing abortions,” the AP reported.

“’Don’t you think that the message that the state was trying to send has been muddled?’ Jolly asked.”

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