AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday blocked a new Texas rule that would have excluded Planned Parenthood clinics from offering women's health services for the poor in the state because the organization provides abortions.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in favor of Planned Parenthood means thousands of women enrolled in the Texas Women's Health Program who go to its clinics will not be required to switch providers, at least for now.
"The court is particularly influenced by the potential for immediate loss of access to necessary medical services by several thousand Texas women," Yeakel said in a 24-page ruling.
The Texas 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.
According to Planned Parenthood, about 49 percent of the women who received services through the program in 2010 obtained some services through a Planned Parenthood provider.
It does not pay for abortions or allow abortion providers to participate in the program. The new Texas state rule would ban 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.
Texas notified the federal government last year of its intent to begin enforcing the ban, effectively excluding Planned Parenthood from the program.
(Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)