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Abbott Sues Feds Over Women's Health Program

Woman at Texas Capitol protests Republican lawmakers decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune
Woman at Texas Capitol protests Republican lawmakers decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is filing yet another lawsuit against the federal government, this one, no surprise, over the Women's Health Program. 

Federal health officials announced Thursday what state leaders had predicted for weeks: that they are halting funding for the program — which provides contraception, well woman exams and cancer screenings for more than 100,000 women every year — over Texas' decision to ban Planned Parenthood clinics from participating. 

Texas' Republican leaders make a states' rights argument, saying they've got every right to pass rules that ban Planned Parenthood; the Obama administration says the move violates federal Medicaid law. Gov. Rick Perry has vowed to find the funds — some $30 million a year — to run the program without the federal government's help. 

On Friday, Abbott filed suit against U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying that the federal government's action is unconstitutional because it seeks to "commandeer and coerce the states' lawmaking processes into awarding taxpayer subsidies to elective abortion providers." In the complaint, Abbott asks that the federal government resume funding for the program.

Cindy Mann, director of the federal Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, said Thursday that Texas left her agency no other choice by forging ahead with a rule designed to force Planned Parenthood clinics out of the program 

"We have no choice but to not renew their program," Mann said. "... We very much regret that the state of Texas has taken this course."

Perry said the blame for the lost federal dollars falls squarely at the feet of the Obama administration. 

“Texans send a substantial amount of our tax dollars to Washington, D.C., and it is unconscionable that the Obama administration has essentially told Texas it will send our tax dollars back to fund this program only if we violate state law and include its pro-abortion allies," Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday.

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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