AUSTIN, Texas Eight Planned Parenthood organizations sued Texas on Wednesday for excluding them from participating in a program that provides contraception and check-ups to women, saying the new rule violates their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association.
The groups, none of which provide abortions, contend in the federal lawsuit that a new state law banning organizations affiliated with abortion providers from participating in the Women’s Health Program has nothing to do with providing medical care and is simply intended to silence individuals or groups who support abortion rights. Texas law already requires that groups receiving federal or state funding be legally and financially separate from clinics that perform abortions.
“The government cannot condition your participation in the health services on giving up your free speech,” said Pete Shenkken, the plaintiffs’ attorney, citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
The federal government has also cut funding to Texas over the issue, saying it violated federal law. It says the state law passed by conservative Republicans and signed by Gov. Rick Perry last year denies women the right to choose their health care providers.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which enforces the rule, issued a statement saying it believes the state was within its rights to pass the new law. Last month, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sued the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for cutting off funding for the Women’s Health program because of the new affiliate rule.
The Planned Parenthood groups have asked the federal court in Austin to block the state from enforcing the law before April 30, when the clinics would lose funding.