By CHRIS TOMLINSON
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Texas cannot ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds, at least until a lower court has a chance to hear formal arguments.
A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Friday with a lower court that there's sufficient evidence the state's law banning Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program is unconstitutional. Appellate Judge Jerry Smith had stayed an injunction keeping the law from being enforced earlier this week so the court could review it.
But on Friday he said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had not demonstrated that Texas would be irreparably harmed by holding off on enforcing the new law until a trial in Austin.
"We cannot conclude, on the present state of the record, that the State has shown a great likelihood, approaching a near certainty, that the district court abused its discretion in entering the injunction," the court order said.
The law passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature forbids state agencies from providing funds to an organization affiliated with abortion providers. Eight Planned Parenthood clinics that do not provide abortions sued the state. They claimed the law violated their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Texas officials have said that if the state is forced to include Planned Parenthood, they'll likely shut down the program that provides basic health care and contraception to 130,000 poor women.
The state and Planned Parenthood said they were studying the decision before issuing any statements.