On April 11, 2012, seven family planning providers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The Plaintiffs, represented by private and in-house counsel, asked the court for declaratory ...
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On April 11, 2012, seven family planning providers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The Plaintiffs, represented by private and in-house counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, Plaintiffs challenged the federal constitutionality of Texas Admin. Code §§ 354.1361-64, which bars Plaintiffs from participating in Texas's Women's Health Program (WHP) because Plaintiffs either publicly advocate to protect access to safe and legal abortion or are affiliated with organizations that engage in advocacy, even though Plaintiffs do not themselves provide any abortion services.
In 2005, the Texas legislature established the WHP to expand access to preventive health and family planning services. The WHP provides well-women services to low-income individuals, including physical examinations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection screenings, and counseling regarding contraception. WHP does not pay for abortions. The legislation authorizing the WHP directed the Texas HHSC not to contract with any entities affiliated with those that perform or promote abortions. In implementing the statute and administering the WHP, the HHSC took the position that Plaintiffs could not be constitutionally excluded from participation as long as they maintained legal and financial separation from affiliated entities providing abortion services. On February 23, 2012, however, the HHSC adopted a new rule prohibiting Plaintiffs from participating in the WHP, and calling for Plaintiffs' removal from the WHP after April 30, 2012.
On April 30, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Judge Lee Yeakel) granted a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the rules against Plaintiffs. The Court (Judge Yeakel) found that the government is entitled to define the limits of a publicly funded program, but cannot condition participation in a government funded program on an applicant's exercise of protected rights. Here, the Court (Judge Yeakel) found the Plaintiffs First Amendment Rights to free speech are unconstitutionally infringed, and enforcement of the HHSC rule prohibiting Plaintiffs from participating in the WHP will hurt the public interest by resulting in a significant reduction in family-planning services to uninsured women. The record establishes Plaintiffs together have provided more than 40 percent of the WHP services statewide in FY 2010.
On April 30, 2012, Texas filed its notice of appeal of the District Court grant enjoining the enforcement of the HHSC rules. The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (Justice E. Grady Jolly) vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded the case. The 5th Circuit Court (Justice E. Grady Jolly) found that although the HHSC rule functions as a speech-based funding condition, it is also a direct regulation of the content of a state based program and is therefore constitutional.
On November 27, 2012, Plaintiffs moved to dismiss without prejudice because they also filed an action in state court. Lori Arakaki - 10/02/2014