Today, a state district court has allowed the State of Texas to block women’s access to basic health care, despite the desperate need of tens of thousands of low-income and uninsured women. Attorneys for Marcela “Marcy” Balquinta and Texas Planned Parenthood family planning providers asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to ensure that Balquinta and 111,000 Texaswomen will continue to have access to basic, preventive health care under the state’s new Texas Women’s Health Program that is scheduled to begin January 1.
The temporary restraining order request was denied solely on the basis that the court did not find sufficient injury to Planned Parenthood in the ten days before the temporary injunction hearing. Planned Parenthood is confident in the merits of its case and hopes the court will grant its request for a temporary injunction at the upcoming hearing on January 11, 2012. Due to today’s ruling, women may not obtain services through the Texas Women’s Health Program at Planned Parenthood health centers beginning January 1. Planned Parenthood will continue to do its best to work with individual patients to meet their health care needs, regardless of financial or economic status.
“Thanks to the care I receive through Planned Parenthood and WHP, I have been able to keep healthy while finishing up school and working toward my career goals. I love my job and work hard, but at the end of the day, like many women out there, I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Marcela “Marcy” Balquinta, who works as an education coordinator in McAllen, Texas. “Without the affordable care I receive through Planned Parenthood and WHP, I would have to make tough decisions between paying for my cancer screenings and birth control, or buying groceries or gas for my car. If I couldn’t go to Planned Parenthood, I don’t know where I’d turn. And there are tens of thousands of Texas women like me.”
“It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women. This case isn't about Planned Parenthood—it's about women like Marcy Balquinta who rely on us for basic, preventive health care,” said Melaney A. Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will be here for our patients. Our doors remain open today and always to Texas women in need. We only wish Texas politicians shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”
The state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program is scheduled to replace the 90 percent federally funded Medicaid Women’s Health Program on January 1. The federal government refused to continue funding Medicaid WHP after December 31, 2012 because Texas officials insist on restricting women’s access to the provider of their choice. The current state court lawsuit concerns the new, 100 percent state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program.
In this lawsuit, attorneys for Marcy Balquinta and Planned Parenthood argue that Kyle Janek, Executive Director of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) do not have the authority to exclude Planned Parenthood from their new state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program or to implement the proposed “poison pill” severability clause, which would shut down the entire Texas Women’s Health Program if the court allows Planned Parenthood to participate. The Texas Legislature already rejected a similar “poisoned pill” when it renewed the federally funded Medicaid Women’s Health Program in 2011.
If Commissioner Janek and DSHS were to succeed in banning Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program—or in shutting down the entire program—they would jeopardize health care access for Balquinta and tens of thousands of Texas women. Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, caring for nearly 45 percent of women in the program. Recent research demonstrates that providers in many communities would be unable to increase their patient loads enough to offset the loss of Planned Parenthood from the program, leaving women like Balquinta with no place to turn for health care through WHP.
Background Facts According to Planned Parenthood Officials:
FACT: The State asked a federal court in Waco to order the federal government to continue funding Medicaid WHP; on Friday, December 21, the court refused to grant the State’s request. In a separate case, Planned Parenthood providers on November 9, 2012 won a state court temporary injunction finding that their exclusion from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program likely violated state law; the State has appealed that ruling.
FACT: A study released October 11, 2012 from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services is the latest in a body of research finding that eliminating Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program will further exacerbate harm to Texas women caused by Texas’ 2011 cuts to its family planning programs. Currently more than one-quarter of Texas women are uninsured, and women in Texas have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the U.S
FACT: A recent analysis from the Center for Public Policy Priorities found that the Women’s Health Program rule that was designed to exclude Planned Parenthood has led nearly 100 health care providers, including Planned Parenthood health centers, to be excluded from or no longer participate in that program. Together, these providers delivered two-thirds (61 percent) of Women’s Health Program services in state fiscal year 2011.
FACT: An estimated 160,000 women are already going without preventive health care this year because of Texas officials’ politically motivated budget cuts to family planning, which have already caused dozens of women’s health care centers to close statewide. Due to these same cuts and the redistribution of funds, the state’s Family Planning Program served only 75,160 women in 2012—63% fewer women than in 2011—and paid 15% more per client for care. This reduced access to birth control is expected to cost Texas taxpayers up to an additional $273 million.
FACT: A recent peer-reviewed study in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the short-term impact of Texas’ 2011 family planning cuts on women’s health. They found the most reliable contraceptive methods, such as IUDs and implants, are less available to women due to higher upfront costs and women are opting out of testing for STDs to save money. “We are witnessing the dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon,” the authors write.
FACT: Texas was ranked worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. Governor Perry also publicly stated he would not expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, which means many women and families in need of health care will continue to be left behindin Texas.
FACT: Planned Parenthood providers that contract with the state for family planning grant funds and/or participate in the Women’s Health Program are legally and financially separate from Planned Parenthood providers that provide safe and legal abortions. Moreover, consistent with federal and state law, at no Planned Parenthood facility are Women’s Health Program funds used to perform or “promote” abortion.