Texas Democrats Look To Secure Alternative Federal Funding For Planned Parenthood In The State

Texans protest against the Planned Parenthood cuts outside of the state Capitol.

Democratic lawmakers are trying to find alternative ways to keep Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas afloat just one day before the state officially bans the organization from receiving funding through the joint state-federal Women’s Health Program. Tomorrow, a new rule goes into effect stopping any clinic affiliated with an abortion provider from receiving WHP funds, and federal officials have said they will cut off funding to the state program if Texas bans Planned Parenthood from WHP. If the program stops, 130,000 women will lose their access to affordable health care.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Rep. Garnet Coleman have been meeting with the Department of Health and Human Services about creating a women’s health “look-alike program” that would keep money flowing to Planned Parenthood, which treats nearly 44 percent of the program’s patients:

The Medicaid Women’s Health Program is due to end in Texas on March 31, the result of the state’s decision to exclude clinics affiliated with abortion providers, even those that do not provide abortions. Federal regulations say a state can’t exclude qualified providers from the program.

Coleman and Lee said the alternative might involve the federal government allocating money to local entities, such as counties, hospital districts or federally qualified health clinics. They noted that school districts have been allowed to apply for federal grants independently rather than through the state.

Ninety percent of the Women’s Health Program’s total operating costs are covered by federal funds, but last week, Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced the state would continue funding the Women’s Health Program without including Planned Parenthood and without federal funds. His administration has not explained how he plans to carve $30 million out of the state’s budget to do so. Although HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius maintains that federal funding for the Women’s Health Program will be phased out gradually over the course of several months, she also inferred that the option of providing direct federal funding for Planned Parenthood was on the table.

While the rule goes into effect Wednesday, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas will accept WHP patients to the end of March. Last week, Texans protested against the Republicans’ decision to take away health care for hundreds of thousands of women just so they can take funding away from Planned Parenthood.

Fatima Najiy