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#WinsforWomen: Attempts to Obstruct Access to Health Care Blocked in Virginia and Texas

On Tuesday, harmful attempts to undermine women’s access to affordable health care were blocked in both Virginia and Texas, securing important wins for women in these states.

In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have denied all state funds to health centers that also provide abortion.  The bill would have prohibited the state from reimbursing health care providers like Planned Parenthood for any service—in effect preventing these clinics from providing critical health care, such as birth control, cancer screenings, and HIV testing.  In vetoing the bill, Gov. McAuliffe made clear that “[a]ttempts to restrict women’s access to health care will impede the goal of making Virginia the best place to live, work, and run a business.”

In Texas, a federal court blocked the state’s attempt to cut Planned Parenthood out of the Texas Medicaid program while the litigation is pending.  The judge, a George H.W. Bush appointee, found that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission put forward “unsubstantiated and indeterminate allegations” for terminating Planned Parenthood from the program, “without any evidence indicating an actual program violation warranting termination.”  In blocking the state, the court noted that this was an attempt to “expel a group of health care providers from a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources.”  Medicaid law guarantees individuals a right to obtain health care from a qualified provider and the court noted that “the deprivation of that right is an irreparable injury in and of itself but could also disrupt the care of the 12,500 Texas Medicaid patients receiving services from Planned Parenthood.”  Although the litigation will continue, the court’s strongly worded ruling makes clear that states can’t arbitrarily exclude health care providers from Medicaid funding and that if they were to do so, it would harm patient access to care.

These are significant wins for women in Virginia and Texas.  Planned Parenthood health centers offer a range of care that is vital to the health and safety of communities.  For example, research shows that more women are able to obtain timely, high quality, and more comprehensive birth control services from Planned Parenthood health centers than from other types of publically funded health centers.  Moreover, we know that when funds have been denied to Planned Parenthood clinics in the past, other providers were not able to meet the increased demand—leaving many working women and families without the care they need.

Fortunately, Gov. McAuliffe in Virginia and the federal court in Texas saw through these “political attacks on women’s health,” and 18,000 Virginians and 12,500 Texans will continue to have access to affordable health care in their communities.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.