MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The State of Texas and Planned Parenthood will face off in federal court. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and his anti-abortion allies in the Texas House and Senate, want to strip Planned Parenthood of its state funding. Planned Parenthood has filed suit, alleging the state is violating its constitutional rights to free association and free speech. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Texas has been trying to figure out a way to de-fund Planned Parenthood since the GOP captured both legislative bodies and the governor's office in 2002. For Republican politicians in Texas, opposition to the women's organization is a badge of honor.
STATE REP. SID MILLER: In the last budget, I transferred $21 million away from Planned Parenthood.
GOODWYN: State Rep. Sid Miller is in rural Texas, southwest of Fort Worth.
MILLER: We believe it is inherently wrong to use taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that performs abortions.
GOODWYN: In fact, none of the dozens of clinics that will lose state funds actually perform abortions. It is already against state and federal law for clinics that perform abortions to receive taxpayer dollars. Texas is going a step further - to end funding for women's health clinics which either associate with abortion providers, or advocate for abortion rights. Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming these new Texas rules violate the organization's constitutional rights to free association and free speech. Sid Miller disagrees.
MILLER: Well, I don't see how any of that even correlates. We're not stopping them from doing whatever they want to do. They're still free to service women however they want to. We're just saying, you're not going to do it with taxpayer dollars.
GOODWYN: Texas already cut its support statewide for women's health clinics by two-thirds last year, eliminating access to family planning services for nearly 300,000 poor and working-class women. The state estimates those cuts will result in roughly 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas is currently number one in spending on teen pregnancies. But for abortion opponents, it's not about the money. It's about not allowing Planned Parenthood into the Texas Women's Health Program. Helene Krasnoff is a lawyer for Planned Parenthood.
HELENE KRASNOFF: In essence, the rule bars being Planned Parenthood, and being in this program. It bars it in numerous ways because we advocate to protect women's access to safe and legal abortion. It bars it because we associate with entities that engage in that conduct. It bars you from having any relationship with any provider of abortion services, so you can't be connected with comprehensive reproductive health care.
GOODWYN: Krasnoff says these rules go too far. Texas can't say to women's clinics you can have state funds but only if you agree not to say I support abortion rights. Krasnoff asserts Planned Parenthood's speech and associations have nothing to do with the quality of the health care provided at their clinics.
KRASNOFF: The government can tell an entity what it can do with the government funds. The government can set the rule for its own programs. But it can't disqualify you from that program based on constitutionally protected conduct that you do outside of that government program.
GOODWYN: Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that Planned Parenthood's claim that Texas is violating its constitutional rights was likely to succeed, and issued an injunction. Texas has appealed, and the matter is before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments will be heard the first week of June.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
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