Texas: Planned Parenthood Sues Over Budget Measure
July 1, 2003
Planned Parenthood sued Texas in U.S. District Court in Austin Thursday over a provision in the 2004-2005 state budget that would deny about $13 million annually to health care providers that perform abortions. Calling the measure an "unconstitutional penalty," Planned Parenthood said that about 115,000 women would lose access to family planning services, including Pap smears, breast and cervical cancer screenings, most forms of contraception and screenings for STDs. The measure affects six Planned Parenthood affiliates.Adapted from:
Jim George, Planned Parenthood's attorney, said the budget provision is illegal because virtually all the money at issue is from federal funds. He said the measure imposes a state eligibility requirement on receiving the funds -- requirements not authorized by federal laws controlling the funds. "Congress still gets to make the rules," George said. "Not the state of Texas."
The organization also said the measure was illegal because it imposes a penalty "for providing with separate, privately-raised funds a medical service that is protected by the Constitution." The funds affected by the budget measure are not used to provide abortions, Planned Parenthood said.
State Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), a sponsor of the budget measure, said the language in the rider has been tested and upheld by the courts. He also said the measure allows the Texas Department of Health, if it determines that the measure would result in a significant reduction in family planning services in any public health region in the state, to grant a waiver to the rule. The waiver provision expires Aug. 31, 2004.
George said the lawsuit was triggered by a letter TDH sent to Planned Parenthood affiliates June 10, informing them they had until June 30 to return paperwork on whether they planned to perform abortions on or after Sept. 1, the start of fiscal 2004. Texas Health Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez is listed as the sole defendant.
06.26.03; Natalie Gott