Federal judge sides with plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood case
AUSTIN — Texans who rely on Planned Parenthood as a medical care provider won’t have to seek those services elsewhere, pending an upcoming trial.
In the lawsuit titled Planned Parenthood et al. v. Texas Health and Human Services Commission, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin on Feb. 21 granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the Texas Department of Health and Human Services from eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in the state’s 2017-18 budget.
“There is no legitimate public interest in allowing Texas to complete its planned terminations (of funding) based on the current facts,” wrote Sparks. “Instead, the public interest favors enforcing the individual plaintiffs’ rights and avoiding disrupting the health care of some of Texas’s most vulnerable individuals.”
Sparks found that an injunction would ensure that Medicaid recipients in Texas “will continue to have access to medical care at their chosen providers” and the Texas Department of Health and Human Service’s termination of Planned Parenthood’s provider agreements likely violates federal law.
Sparks ordered the plaintiffs and defendants to work out a schedule for presenting arguments within 30 days. The court will then schedule a trial date.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed disappointment in the ruling and said he plans to file an appeal.
‘Bathroom bill’ continues
The Trump administration has reversed last year’s Obama administration move to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
The civil rights divisions for the federal justice and education departments on Feb. 22 issued a joint “Dear Colleague” guidance letter reversing the controversial move last May.
In late August, a Fort Worth federal district court enjoined nationwide enforcement of the Obama administration’s directive.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 6 by Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, is awaiting a hearing by the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee.
The state legislation, considered a high priority by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require transgender students to use facilities that match the biological sex they were assigned at birth.
Senate panel hears bill
The Senate Education Committee on Feb. 23 heard testimony on legislation that would prevent a teacher fired for sexual misconduct in one school district from getting hired by another district.
“We have to remove any possible obstacle to identify teachers or educators with this problem and pull their license,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, author of Senate Bill 7.
SB 7 also would:
- Create criminal penalties for any superintendent or principal who fails to notify the state of cases of sexual misconduct involving teachers;
- Automatically revoke the teaching certificate of any teacher on deferred adjudication for sexual misconduct or on the sex offender registry; and
- Require school districts to enact polices and training addressing contact between students and teachers on the Internet and social media.
Legendary jurist dies
Noted Texas jurist Jack Pope of Austin died at age 103 on Feb. 25.
Born in Abilene in 1913, Pope helped establish formal judicial education for Texas judges, fought for a voluntary judicial ethics code when judges had none and fought again to make that code mandatory and enforceable. He served for 38 years as a district court judge, court of appeals justice and on the Texas Supreme Court, the last two as chief justice. His judicial tenure, as a whole, was the longest of any Texas Supreme Court justice.
As a court of appeals justice, Pope’s reassessment of water rights conveyed by Spanish and Mexican land grants changed Texas water law forever. As chief justice he forged a way to guarantee income to finance legal assistance for the poor. Concerned with double litigation in the same case, he won legislative support for statutory changes to thwart “forum shopping” for favorable judges.
More students take exam
Some 122,606 of Texas’ 2016 high school graduates took at least one Advanced Placement Program exam during their high school careers, according to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
Morath said the total amounts to 38.7 percent of Texas’ graduating class. The national percentage is 36.2.