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Judge denies Texas request for feds to keep funding health program

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A judge on Friday denied a request by Texas for an order requiring the federal government to continue providing money for a state health program for low-income women.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith in Waco, Texas, denied the state's motion for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from cutting off Medicaid money for the Women's Health Program.

The federal government pays for most of the cost of the $40-million-a year-program but has told Texas that it will stop at the end of the year because a state decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program violates federal law.

Texas decided to enforce a state law that had been on the books for several years barring funding for abortion providers and affiliates.

The program, which does not pay for abortions, provides care such as breast and cervical cancer screenings and birth control, and Planned Parenthood says it serves nearly half the 115,000 Texas women who participate.

The state plans to launch a nearly identical program using only state money.

"Today's decision doesn't change our plans," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. "We'll move forward with launching the state program on January 1."

She added: "Our goal remains the same. We're going to continue providing women with family planning services and enforce state law."

But Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said Texas has embarked on a political crusade that has cost Texas women and taxpayers.

"There is no sound reason Texas should jeopardize this important program by cutting off access to the health care provider relied on by nearly half of the women receiving basic, preventive health care through the program," Lambrecht said in a statement.

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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