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Federal Court Rules Texas May Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

"A win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state's priority to protect life."

A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas may cut off funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates participating in a low-income women's health care program under a new law banning funds to clinics linked to abortion providers.

The ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court's decision that temporarily allowed Planned Parenthood to continue to receive funding pending a legal challenge to the law in October.

The new Texas law bars organizations linked to abortion providers from receiving money through the state's Women's Health Program, a health and contraceptive care program for low-income women, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The case started when Planned Parenthood sued, saying the new law violated its free speech rights, while Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued the state may decide which organizations it funds. A federal judge in Austin sided with Planned Parenthood, saying there was sufficient evidence the law was unconstitutional. The three-judge appellate panel disagreed, ruling Planned Parenthood was unlikely to succeed under the free speech argument.

Following the federal court's ruling, Texas officials said they would move to sever funding to the Planned Parenthood clinics.

"We appreciate the court's ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women's Health Program as quickly as possible," Stephanie Goodman with the state Health and Human Services Commission said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) released a statement praising the court's ruling, calling it a "win for Texas women."

"Today's ruling affirms that Texas' Women's Health Program has no obligation to fund organizations that promote abortion -- including Planned Parenthood," Perry said. "The 5th Circuit's decision is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state's priority to protect life."

According to the American-Statesman, the program is primarily designed to provide family planning exams and contraception services to women not covered by Medicaid. Planned Parenthood provides health screenings -- but not abortions -- to about half of the 130,000 uninsured patients enrolled in the program, according to the Associated Press.

Federal funds had paid for about 90 percent of of the program, but federal officials announced they would begin phasing out their support in wake of the new law. Perry vowed to make up for the federal funding loss and keep the program going without Planned Parenthood's involvement.

"Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration's disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program," Perry said.

President Barack Obama had denounced the state's efforts during a campaign stop in Austin, Texas in July.

"We're not ending funding for Planned Parenthood," Obama said, according to CNN. "I think women should have control of their own health care choices, just like men. We're not going backwards."

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement after the court's ruling that the case "has never been about Planned Parenthood -- it's about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams."

"It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic health care," Richards said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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