More than simply banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from participating in the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP), the state Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules that would prevent any doctor in the program from discussing the option of abortion with patients.
But medical groups in Texas are pushing back against this restrictive measure. In a letter to the state health department, the Texas Medical Association and four other groups representing 47,000 doctors and medical students explained that the provision would endanger ethics and relationships with patients if they cannot discuss all options:
“The relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and creates the physician’s ethical obligations to place the patient’s welfare above his or her own personal politics, self-interest and above obligations to other groups,” the letter states.
State health officials responded in a written statement, saying they appreciate the groups’ concerns and will carefully review all the input they get on the proposed rule. “We understand that doctors have certain professional obligations to their patients, and we want to ensure that the rule allows doctors to meet those obligations,” Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.
If the rule goes into effect, the groups argued that doctors might stop working with the embattled Women’s Health Program. The 130,000 women in the program were already facing a limited number of care providers after Texas officials blocked Planned Parenthood and abortion providers, which made up half of the participating clinics. As the Texas Tribune points out, the Women’s Health Program provides health screenings and contraception — but not abortions — to some of the poorest women in Texas who will be hurt the most as the state continues to limit their health care options.