The state Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted yesterday in favor of a bill that would renew the Women's Health Program, a Medicaid-funded program that provides basic women's health care. It was set to expire this year unless the Lege took action, but now that it has the committee's approval, the bill will go in front of the whole Senate.
Good news for low-income Texas women, right? Not quite, at least for the significant portion of those women who use Planned Parenthood.
While the bill by Greenville Republican Bob Deuell renews the Women's Health Program, it guts funding to Planned Parenthood, according to the Texas Observer. The Texas Attorney General's office previously made it clear that legislators can eliminate abortion providers and their affiliates from the program. So they did.
But if Planned Parenthood has become a scapegoat because of abortion, lawmakers are misguided, Kelly Hart, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of North Texas, tells Unfair Park. "Abortion has nothing to do with this...It's illegal to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. This idea that the money is shared is false."
Employees of Planned Parenthood of North Texas are "dumbfounded," Hart says, adding that the passage of this bill would leave women who use Planned Parenthood -- close to 300,000 per year in Texas -- with fewer choices and a far more difficult time finding health care. Already busy health clinics couldn't possibly handle the overflow, she says.
Perhaps more troubling is that if Planned Parenthood were to sue, and the bill were tossed out as unconstitutional, the entire Women's Health Program would be struck down, according to the Texas Observer.
"I am shocked that this program has become so politicized," Hart says. "We are dismayed that politics have gotten in the way of women's health care."
While loss of government funding would cripple Planned Parenthood, it would not shut down all local branches. The organization receives sufficient support through donations to keep some locations open, though cutbacks and closings would significantly reduce service.
"Again," Heart says, "I am dumbfounded."