By Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding to affiliates of Planned Parenthood for a state women's health program because the network of clinics provides abortions.
The decision is a blow to Planned Parenthood, which is the nation's largest abortion provider and has been under attack from conservatives across the country. Some conservatives oppose any state government money going to support abortions.
Planned Parenthood denies the money to some of its affiliated clinics supports abortions and said it was for cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman examinations, which focus on health histories and reproductive healthcare.
Texas is the most populous of a number of states with Republican majorities that have mounted a campaign to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. A group of Planned Parenthood clinics earlier this year filed a federal lawsuit to stop Texas from cutting off the funding.
The ruling on Tuesday reversed a lower court decision that had temporarily allowed Planned Parenthood to continue receiving funding from the Texas program.
After the appeals court decision was announced, Texas said it would immediately stop providing money to Planned Parenthood under the Women's Health Program, which provides services to poor women.
"We appreciate the court's ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women's Health Program as quickly as possible," Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.
Planned Parenthood said that the decision puts the health of some 52,000 Texas women in jeopardy. The state program covers more than 100,000 women and Planned Parenthood has said the eight clinics suing Texas stand to lose $13 million a year.
"We are evaluating every possible option to protect women's health in Texas," Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards said in a statement.
The dispute erupted after Texas said that it would enforce a law that had been on the books for several years barring funding for abortion providers and affiliates.
The battle has also pitted Republican-dominated Texas state government against the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama because 90 percent of the funding for the Texas health program comes from the federal government.
The Obama administration has said it will not renew federal funding for the Texas program because the state was violating federal law by restricting the freedom to choose health providers.
But Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, said in a statement on Tuesday that the state would continue to run the program despite the federal government decision not to renew funding Texas.
(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Paul Simao)