By freezing out Planned Parenthood from federal program, Texas likely to lose all funding
Thursday the state’s health services department decided to spurn a federal program–which has saved Texas millions of dollars and reduced by thousands the number of unplanned pregnancies–in order to ensure that Planned Parenthood and other “affiliates of abortion providers” do not receive any of the funds. While national officials say Texas would lose out on the funding altogether if they exclude the centers from the program, Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs signed a rule that prohibits the centers from participating in the program.
The Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP), which provides basic preventative care like birth control and cancer screenings to more than 124,000 low-income Texas women each year, saved Texas $20 million and averted more than 6000 unplanned pregnancies in 2009, the Texas Independent previously reported. About half of Texas’ WHP recipients use Planned Parenthood for services, making it the single largest provider of reproductive care within the program.
“Governor Perry and his conservative allies have once again chosen politics over the lives of Texas women,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a statement. “He will never know the reality of the women that rely on these programs. He will never know what it is like for a woman who feels a lump in her breast, but has to worry about the cost of a doctor’s visit.”
The likely loss of WHP comes amid drastic slashes to family planning services made this legislative session, led largely by conservative Republicans with the aim of defunding Planned Parenthood and preventing abortions-–despite the fact that taxpayer money is already barred from going toward abortion clinics. Women’s health funding saw a reduction of about $74 million, leaving more than 160,000 mostly low-income women without access to basic health care. The Legislative Budget Board estimated those cuts could lead to 20,000 more unplanned pregnancies each year.
“It is well under the purview of a state to set requirements for Medicaid providers,” said HHSC representative Stephanie Goodman. “Last year, an Attorney General opinion said our rule prohibiting abortion providers and affiliates from the program passes constitutional muster. So, we have a clear state law and we need to move forward with it.”
If the federal government–-which covers 90 percent of the cost of the program–-stands by its rule and bans Texas from the program the commission will show “ample” case law and the AG opinion to back up their argument, Goodman told the Texas Independent. If that fails, she said the matter could ultimately end up in court.
Richards noted that even while more than one-quarter of Texas women are uninsured and have the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country, Gov. Perry, “is determined to make a bad situation worse for women in the state of Texas.”
“Texas would rather throw health care for hundreds of thousands of women overboard than allow Planned Parenthood to provide health care like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and STD prevention through public health programs,” she said.
The new rule takes effect March 14, according to HHSC and providers will soon be required to certify that they meet the new requirements.