Just two hours after a U.S. district judge stopped a Texas law that would have eliminated Planned Parenthood's participation in the state's Women's Health Program, Federal Appeals Judge Jerry E. Smith issued an emergency stay that lifted that order.
In the appeal for the emergency stay, a team of attorneys led by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott compared Planned Parenthood to a terrorist organization.
"Planned Parenthood does not provide any assurance that the tax subsidies it receives from the Women’s Health Program have not been used directly or indirectly to subsidize its advocacy of elective abortion," Abbott wrote in his motion to stay the injunction. "Nor is it possible for Planned Parenthood to provide this assurance."
"Money is fungible, and taxpayer subsidies -- even if 'earmarked' for nonabortion activities -- free up other resources for Planned Parenthood to spend on its mission to promote elective abortions ... (because '[m]oney is fungible,' First Amendment does not prohibit application of federal material-support statute to individuals who give money to 'humanitarian' activities performed by terrorist organizations)."
The "federal material-support statute" that Abbott mentions makes it a felony to give money to a terrorist organization, even if the funds are specified for nonterrorist activities. Abbott makes the argument that giving Medicaid money to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, pap smears, STD testing and birth control is akin to giving a terrorist organization money for humanitarian activities.
Planned Parenthood responded Tuesday to the terrorist comparison in a statement to the Huffington Post.
“In a state that leads the nation in the number of uninsured -- where one in four Texas women lack health insurance, and women face the third highest rate of cervical cancer -- I think it is appalling to make such a comparison when Planned Parenthood works every day to keep women healthy," said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
In fact, none of the eight Planned Parenthood clinics that participate in Texas' Women's Health Program offer abortions, and the money Planned Parenthood receives through the program for specific medical visits, treatments, and procedures does not even fully cover the cost of those services. Abortions at Planned Parenthood are entirely paid for with private money in compliance with the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited taxpayer-funded abortions for decades.
Because the new Texas law violated federal Medicaid rules about provider discrimination, the Department of Health and Human Services cut off all Medicaid funding for family planning to the state of Texas in March, jeopardizing the entire Women's Health Program. The program serves about 130,000 low-income women; Planned Parenthood serves more than 40 percent of those women, which was an influencing factor in U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel's Monday decision to halt the law and force the state to continue funding Planned Parenthood.
In appealing that decision, Abbott made the argument that the state of Texas would prefer to shut down the entire Women's Health Program rather than allow it to fund Planned Parenthood.
“Consequently, the district court’s preliminary injunction effectively forces Texas to choose between contravening state law and shutting down the program,” he told the appeals court.
Smith, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, complied with Abbott's request for an appeal within hours of the decision, temporarily voiding Yeakel's injunction and immediately blocking the flow of money to Planned Parenthood. Until 5 p.m. on Tuesday Planned Parenthood can respond to the stay, after which the appeals court will make a final decision.
UPDATE: 8:03 p.m. -- Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, said state attorneys were not comparing Planned Parenthood to a terrorist organization, but rather were citing a Supreme Court case in the brief that happened to be about a terrorist organization.
"Texas did not state -– and does not believe –- that Planned Parenthood is a terrorist organization or comparable to one. Period," Strickland said. "When parties to lawsuits are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law, they resort to the same outrageous rhetoric Planned Parenthood is using today to distract from the real issues."