Federal money to go to Texas women’s health program without abortion providers

Austin, Texas, Jan 23, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A Texas women’s health program that bars funding for health care providers that perform abortions has been approved for federal funding by the Trump administration, making it the first program to receive federal Medicaid funding while excluding abortion providers.

The Department of Health and Human Services approved the Medicaid waiver for the Healthy Texas Women program, which helps provide health care and family planning services to tens of thousands of women, the Dallas Morning News reports. The waiver is an administrative procedure that allows federal money for states that experiment in new ways to provide health care to the poor and disabled.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed the waiver, saying, “The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life.”

“This collaboration is a symbol of our commitment to championing the lives of Texas women. I am grateful to President Trump and his administration for approving this waiver, and for his commitment to protecting the unborn while providing much-needed health resources to Texas women,” Abbott said Jan. 22.

The Healthy Texas Women program was launched in 2007 under the name the Women’s Health Program. It served about 173,000 low-income women in 2018. The waiver, approved through December 2024, will fund services for over 200,000 clients a year, the governor’s office said. Federal funds will total about $350 million over five years, while the state will contribute about $100 million over that time.

The Obama administration refused to renew federal funding for the program because Texas would not fund abortion providers or affiliates. The funds did not go to abortions.

Before Planned Parenthood was dropped from funding, the organization served about 40 percent of the women in the program, providing birth control, cancer screenings, and other services. The funds did not go to abortions.

As the largest abortion provider in the U.S., however, any funding of Planned Parenthood has drawn critical attention from foes of abortion.

The Trump administration’s action drew praise from pro-life groups.

“Texas is a state that values life, and we are proud to see President Trump stand with us on this issue. Texas is proving it is possible to both care for women and protect life,” Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, commented Jan. 23.

“President Trump has repeatedly kept his promise to stop taxpayer funding of the big abortion industry including Planned Parenthood. Abortion is not health care,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “When Texas lawmakers exercised their right to fund women’s health care without underwriting abortion businesses, they were punished by the Obama administration and smeared by abortion activists and their media allies.”

Dannenfelser said that Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report shows “massive increases in both abortions and taxpayer funding at the same time they have seen steep declines in their number of patients, cancer screening and prevention services, breast exams, pap tests, and even contraceptive services.”

“Restoring Texas’s decision regarding use of federal funds is an acknowledgement that the Lone Star State was right all along,” said Dannenfelser, calling on President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar “to immediately free all states to act on the will of their citizens to support women’s health care without encouraging abortion.”

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes said the waiver upends “longstanding federal policy.”

“Reproductive health care has been under constant attack for more than a decade in Texas and extreme politicians in the state have only been emboldened by support from the Trump administration,” the group said.

The Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning group, said in 2017 that fewer women were being served than before Planned Parenthood was removed from the program. Enrollment dropped by 24% and 39% fewer of those enrolled accessed health centers.

In 2016, the state contracted with the evangelical Heidi Group to help provide services. The group failed to fulfill its promise to serve 50,000 women and the state ended its contract in 2018, the Dallas Morning News reports.

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