Planned Parenthood Scores Two Unexpected Victories in the South

February 22nd 2017

Mike Rothschild

While Congressional Republicans continue their push to defund Planned Parenthood, the women's health organization just won two legal victories - both in heavily Republican states.

A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a temporary injunction Tuesday preventing the state from cutting off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, while in Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have blocked state funding for the organization.

Texas officials announced in late 2016 that it would attempt to block Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding in response to the infamous “sting” videos released in 2015. These were illegally recorded secret conversations between anti-abortion activists and Planned Parenthood staff that were then edited to make it appear as if the organization was selling fetal parts for profit - a federal crime.

Last year, a Texas grand jury not only found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but indicted the video makers on charges of using fake drivers licenses. Despite the ruling, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot decided to continue with using the videos as an excuse to defund the group.

The Texas judge's decision on Tuesday ensures that over $4 million in funding will be available for women's health services, though not abortion, which is barred from federal funding.

Meanwhile in Virginia, McAuliffe vetoed a Planned Parenthood defunding bill passed by the majority-Republican state General Assembly.

"It's time that our General Assembly understands that we have a responsibility to protect the rights and dignity of women," McAuliffe said at a press conference after he signed the veto. "Without access to reproductive care and the freedom to exercise choice, women are denied the choice to make deeply personal health decisions."

The bill would have prevented the Virginia Department of Health from providing funds to medical clinics that provide abortion services to women other than those who already qualified for a procedure under Medicaid. These cases include saving the life of the mother, rape, or a severe fetal abnormality.

While backers of the measure claim it would have "prioritized taxpayer dollars toward providers of more comprehensive health care services," McAuliffe and other Virginia Democrats saw it as a smokescreen to defund planned Parenthood. The proposed piece of legislation had passed the Virginia state senate by just one vote, and was identical to a bill that McAuliffe vetoed last year.

The national effort by the GOP to defund Planned Parenthood is still rolling on, and other state legislatures are still passing their own bills to do so, with Michigan the most recent state to pass such a bill.