Planned Parenthood clinics across the state have a little more time before the must turn away patients in the state’s Women’s Health Program. KERA’s BJ Austin says funding was to be cut Wednesday, but new regulations issued over the weekend allow patients to be seen through April 30.
At Planned Parenthood of North Texas, Kelly Hart says even with the extra time this situation is distressing for thousands of Women’s Health Care Program patients.
Hart: I’m hearing more and more stories from our health center managers and the nurses about these patients which just don’t have any idea what they’re going to do. And it is heartbreaking.
The program provides basic health services for low-income and uninsured women, such as contraceptives and mammograms. Planned Parenthood sees 40 percent of Texas women enrolled in the program; nearly seven thousand of them in North Texas.
Senate Bill 7 prohibits state tax dollars from going to an abortion provider or a reproductive health organization affiliated in any way with an abortion provider. Lawmakers did not hide the fact that they were targeting Planned Parenthood when they passed the bill. The federal government, which funds 90 percent of the program’s cost, is cutting off funds to Texas. Officials say under federal rules, a state cannot limit the patient’s choice of a provider.
In a statement, six Senate Republican Caucus members from North Texas say they support the right of Texas to make its own rules. And they pledge to help the Governor find funds to keep the program going. Planned Parenthood’s Kelly Hart is skeptical, noting the severe cuts to healthcare lawmakers made last session.
Hart: I think it’s incredible that he would say that we would even try to find this funding to pay the other 90 percent when we had a great deal and only paid 10 percent.
Governor Rick Perry has said Washington will not tell Texas how to run its programs, and Planned Parenthood would not be included in any new funding model.
Hart says she hopes lawmakers will hear the protests and reconsider. She says the Women’s Health Program saves millions of dollars each year by reducing Medicaid paid-for pregnancies and births.