AUSTIN — Three movements occurred last week in a legal battle over whether the state of Texas will allow health services to be rendered by Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics under the federal and state funded Women’s Health Program.
- On April 30, Austin U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted an injunction requested by the clinics to prevent the state from stopping them from serving enrollees — low-income women who do not have health insurance.
- Later on April 30, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith granted the state’s request for a stay of the district court’s injunction.
- And on May 4, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit lifted Judge Smith’s stay of the injunction until a trial on merits can be heard.
So, now, the stay of the injunction is in effect, meaning the state Department of Health and Human Services may not enforce its rule banning affiliates of abortion providers from the Women’s Health Program. The Fifth Circuit panel’s order requires a lower court trial to be on the next available regular oral argument docket.
Plaintiffs assert that the state, in preventing them from rendering services to enrollees, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment (freedom of speech and association) and Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection under the laws).
What triggered this recent series of legal maneuvers was a March 14 state Department of Health and Human Services administrative rule that set an April 30 deadline for clinics offering Women’s Health Program services to “certify compliance” – meaning, have no connection with any facility that performs legal abortions.
New licensing requirements
New proof of residency requirements to obtain Texas driver licenses or identification cards took effect on May 7.
In announcement last week, the Texas Department of Public Safety said first-time applicants, in addition to standard application requirements, will be required to present two acceptable documents containing the applicant’s name and address to establish proof of residency in the state of Texas.
To meet the residency requirement for an original identification card or driver license, an applicant must: Reside in Texas for at least 30 days prior to application; and present two acceptable documents establishing proof of residency, one of which must demonstrate the applicant has lived in Texas at least 30 days.
Test to screen for SCID
The Texas Department of State Health Services on May 3 announced it is adding severe combined immunodeficiency, SCID, to the list of diseases that all newborns in Texas are screened for at birth. The DSHS laboratory plans to begin screening for SCID in September using the same newborn screening specimens already collected to test for 28 other rare disorders.
Blood to be tested is drawn by a heel stick within 48 hours of birth and again at one to two weeks of age, the agency said.
Combs to lead task force
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs will lead a new “Child Identity Protection Task Force” managed by The Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin.
“Child identity theft and fraud result in a wide range of crimes against children,” the center’s director, Suzanne Barber, said April 30. “The social harm of online impostors bullying or preying on our children is devastating, and the UT Child Identity Protection Task Force will work tirelessly to help children and parents guard against these crimes,” Combs said.
Among task force members are individuals with the FBI, Secret Service, TransUnion, LexisNexis and Internet safety group WiredSafety.org.
Permian proposes $10K degree
A “Texas Science Scholar” undergraduate degree to be offered by the Odessa-based University of Texas of the Permian Basin beginning in the fall is the first answer to a call by Gov. Rick Perry for institutions of higher learning to adopt a $10,000 four-year undergraduate degree. Announced at a May 2 UT System board of regents meeting by UT-Permian Basin President David Watts, the bachelor of science degree program will offer majors in chemistry, computer science, geology, information systems and mathematics on the UTPB campus.
Education chief resigns
Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott on May 3 announced his intent to resign from office effective July 2, five years after his appointment to the state’s highest public education post.
Scott, 43, a former education aide to Gov. Perry, served as interim commissioner and deputy commissioner before being named to the highest post in the agency.