ONTD Political

New Texas rule will end Women's Health Program

2:18 pm - 02/26/2012
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday it will enforce a new state law that could shut down the Women's Health Program, which provides health care to more than impoverished 130,000 women.

Last year, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law making it illegal for the state to provide Medicaid funds to a doctor or clinic that is affiliated with an organization that provides elective abortions, even if the institution receiving the money does not provide them. Commissioner Tom Suehs signed the rule Thursday and will begin enforcing it March 14. Lawmakers who supported the bill bragged that it would keep government funds from going to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services, though not abortions.

Under the existing law that established the Women's Health Program, Texas has not provided funding for even affiliates of organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide abortion. Thus far the rule was only applied to facilities that actually provide abortions. But now the rule will be extended to affiliates of abortion providers even if their facilities do not actually perform abortions, according to a decision by State Attorney General Greg Abbott.

The new state law, however, contradicts a federal law that says the state cannot pick and choose which qualified health care providers receive state funding, according to a letter from Cindy Mann, the director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Mann said that Texas could lose federal funding for the Women's Health Program if the rule is enforced.

The Legislature anticipated the possible conflict and discussed whether the law would shut down the $40 million program. But Republican lawmakers argued that no taxpayer money should go to any organization that performs elective abortions under any circumstances.

The state agency said it had no choice but to enforce the rule.

"We have a state law that our attorney general says is constitutional, and it bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women's Health Program. We can't violate a valid state law just to please Washington," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state agency. "We hope CMS will reverse its position and allow the program to continue."

Planned Parenthood, which says 97 percent of its health services are not related to abortions, condemned the Sueh's decision to move ahead with the rule, knowing that it could likely end the program.

"Texas women and Texas taxpayers need this program. The Medicaid Women's Health Program saves lives, prevents unintended pregnancies and saves taxpayer dollars," the group said in a statement. "For many women, Medicaid WHP is their only source of health care. Texas already leads the nation in the number of uninsured families."

If there was any hope that the state was seeking a compromise with the federal government over Texas’ Women’s Health Program, it’s fading fast.

“Under federal law, states administer Medicaid and have the right to set the criteria for providers in the program. That is what Texas is doing,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the agency. “We have a state law that our Attorney General says is constitutional, and it clearly bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women’s Health Program.

Unless some last-minute agreement is brokered, the program, which receives $9 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds, will be either phased out or cut off by the end of March. At least 130,000 poor Texas women will lose access to cancer screenings, well-woman exams and contraception.

“No one’s politics should interfere with a woman’s access to health care,” said Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast President and CEO Peter J. Durkin. “It is shameful that Governor Perry and Commissioner Suehs continue to politicize lifesaving breast cancer screenings and birth control access for low-income women.”

Republican lawmakers worked overtime last legislative session to design language that would keep any Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics from receiving state family planning and women’s health dollars, despite the fact that taxpayer-funded clinics may not perform abortions. They got the backing of Abbott, who said their efforts were legal, and gave the state’s health commissioner the go-ahead to implement the new language.

But when Texas was faced with renewing the Women’s Health Program this year, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the state’s plans violated the Social Security Act. They gave the program a three-month extension, but said they had no intention of renewing if Planned Parenthood, which provides 44% of the program’s services, was blacklisted.

The stalemate appears unbreakable – Republican lawmakers have made clear they’d rather forgo the program and the federal money than allow Planned Parenthood to participate.

“The Legislature has spoken. The attorney general has said it is constitutional. The Commissioner has signed the rule,” said Kyleen Wright, president of the Texas for Life Coalition. “If Planned Parenthood cared as much about affordable health care for women as they say, they would get out of the way so that the program could continue.”

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is being sued by a former employee for allegedly bilking millions of dollars from the government. The Odessa Planned Parenthood office is shutting its doors for good. Without the state funding they depend on, they say they have no other choice.

atomic_joe2 27th-Feb-2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
So Texas is a pretty Christian area, right? What's Christian about NOT helping the poor?

kiri_l 27th-Feb-2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, they'll help the poor, if the poor in question are up to their standards! wealthy enough to afford it all on their own.

There fixed that for ya.

seriously these people are just beyond.. I may need something stronger than tea this week if this is how Monday is starting.
yamamanama 27th-Feb-2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
According to their version of Christianity, poor people are poor because they are inherently evil.
tilmon 27th-Feb-2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
Silly! Christianity isn't about helping the poor! According to the sermons, it's about competing to build the best and most brilliant "soul crown." For every pompous act of self-righteous, Gamemaster God awards you another gem for your soul crown and the right to feel smugly superior to everyone else.
lovedforaday 27th-Feb-2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves, remember.
angelus7988 27th-Feb-2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
Prosperity Gospel: What happens when Satan rebrands Christianity.
sesmo 27th-Feb-2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
cecilia_weasley 28th-Feb-2012 12:57 am (UTC)
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