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Court delivers new blow to Planned Parenthood in Texas abortion battle

AUSTIN, Texas - A U.S. appeals court judge on Tuesday issued an emergency stay of a ruling that prevented the state from excluding Planned Parenthood from a health program for low-income women because the organization performs abortions.

The stay, issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversed a lower court ruling Monday in favor of the family planning organization. The decision means the state is free for now to enforce a new rule banning Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women's Health Program, state officials said.

The Associated Press reported that Smith gave eight Planned Parenthood organizations involved in a lawsuit until 5 p.m. Tuesday to present arguments.


"At this point, Planned Parenthood is not an eligible provider in the Women's Health Program," Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said Tuesday.

The Women's Health Program, which is part of the federal-state Medicaid program, provides cancer screenings, birth control and other health services to more than 100,000 low-income women.

It does not pay for abortions or allow abortion providers to participate in the program. The 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.

Judge: Texas can't ban Planned Parenthood from health program

The Planned Parenthood groups sued, and on Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the state rule pending trial, citing "the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women."

Planned Parenthood had told Yeakel that the health care of 40,000 women would be disrupted unless he blocked the rule.

But lawyers for the state said that Planned Parenthood's mission was contrary to a program goal of reducing abortions and that the program would end if Planned Parenthood remains in it.

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

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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.

Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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