(Photo: AP Images / Charles Krupa)
An appeals court heard arguments in a case brought by the State of Texas to lift an injunction against a state law that bars Planned Parenthood from receiving funds through a taxpayer-financed government program.
The Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office told the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that a federal judge's injunction against the ban on Planned Parenthood funding was based on bad legal reasoning.
"Plaintiffs' response is centered on the mistaken belief that Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991), gives health-service providers a constitutional right to administer a social-welfare program on the State's behalf – even when the entity actively promotes elective abortions and utilizes a trademark associated with the promotion and performance of elective abortion," read the appeal brought by Abbott.
"Plaintiffs incorrectly claim that '40 years of unbroken case law' establishes that States may not withhold taxpayer subsidies on account of the recipient's exercise of constitutionally protected rights, when the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld laws that condition government benefits on the recipient's agreement to refrain from constitutionally protected speech activity."
In July 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law Senate Bill 7, which prevented abortion providers from receiving funds from the state's Woman's Health Program.
"The department shall ensure that money spent … is not used to perform or promote elective abortions, or to contract with entities that perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions," read the provision.
The provision stirred controversy at the state and federal level, as Planned Parenthood chapters in Texas protested the effort.
"Last year, Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature shamefully politicized women's health and cut state family planning programs by two-thirds leaving more than 360,000 women without access to basic, lifesaving care," read a "Take Action Now" alert on Planned Parenthood's website.
"Yet Texas is committed to violating federal law and restricting the right of Medicaid patients to choose their own provider."
In March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would cut federal funding to Texas' WHP due to their refusal to give funds to Planned Parenthood. In response, Texas filed suit against the federal government over the announcement.
By April, Planned Parenthood sued the State of Texas over the WHP provision with the hopes of overturning the law. They also filed for an injunction against the provision being implemented, which U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel granted.
A day later, a Fifth Circuit judge granted Texas a stay on the injunction, only to have that stay vacated by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit.
While the Fifth Circuit Court heard arguments from both sides on Thursday, it did not indicate when it would reach a decision on lifting the injunction.