Planned Parenthood can be in Texas health program, court says

AUSTIN, Texas Fri May 4, 2012 4:44pm EDT

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AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood can participate for now in a Texas health program for low-income women despite a new state rule that bans affiliates of abortion providers, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday.

The court order from the 5th U.S. Circuit -- which lifts an emergency halt that was put in place on earlier this week -- is the latest in a series of alternating victories for Planned Parenthood and Texas. But the court battle is not over.

The program, which is part of the federal-state Medicaid program, provides cancer screenings, birth control and other health services to more than 100,000 women in Texas.

It does not pay for abortions or allow abortion providers to participate in the program. A new state rule bans program money from going to affiliates of abortion providers. State law has included that ban on affiliates since the program began in 2007 but the state did not enforce it.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the family planning organization. Then on Tuesday, 5th U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith granted Texas an emergency stay, allowing the state to ban Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program. Planned Parenthood said on Tuesday that it would keep seeing patients who are enrolled in the program, but it was unclear whether its clinics would be reimbursed for the government for that care.

Texas notified the federal government last year of its intent to begin enforcing the ban, effectively excluding Planned Parenthood from the program.

President Barack Obama's administration has said it will not renew funding for the Texas program because the state was violating federal law by restricting the freedom to choose providers.

The state is suing over that decision. The federal government pays 90 percent of the $33 million-a-year program.

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune)

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