U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled on Monday that Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from its Women’s Health Program, raising fears that conservative politicians may scrap the entire program.
Yeakel — who was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2003 — imposed an injunction against enforcing a law that bans state agencies from providing funds to organizations affiliated with abortion providers. Eight Planned Parenthood clinics that do not provide abortions sued the state, arguing that the law unconstitutionally restricts their freedom of speech.
In his ruling, Yeakel referenced the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services chose to cut off all of Texas’ Medicaid funding for family planning as a result of the law.
“The court is particularly influenced by the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women,” Yeakel wrote. “The record before the court at this juncture reflects uncertainty as to the continued viability of the Texas Women’s Health Program.”
After the Department of Health and Human Services cut Texas’ Medicaid funding, Texas Governor Rick Perry has promised to fund the program with the state’s own money instead. That may be a hard sell to conservative lawmakers, however, who have promised to shut down the entire Women’s Health Program if Planned Parenthood is included in it.
“We call on Governor Perry and the state to put Texan women first and set aside any vendetta they may have against Planned Parenthood,” Patricio Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County, said after the ruling. “No woman should ever have to fear being cut off from her doctor’s care because of shortsighted political games.”
Yeakel’s injunction is only a temporary measure; he will make a final decision after presiding over a full trial. Whatever decision he makes then will likely be appealed.