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Despite Claims, Not Enough Doctors for a State-Run Women's Health Program

Despite comments made by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission executive director Kyle Janeck this morning, the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) will not be launching tomorrow. 

Perry is attempting to make the WHP, a program that is currently funded in large part by the federal government, a state only-run program, by rejecting almost $40 million of federal funding Texas would have received. Perry and others want to ban Planned Parenthood from being providers as part of the program meant to take care of tens of thousands of low-income women before they are pregnant. They claim that Planned Parenthood clinics are “abortion affiliates,” even though federal law already disallows those who actually terminate pregnancies from receiving government funds. The Planned Parenthood clinics that are a part the WHP instead provide preventative care, such as contraception, and STI and cancer screenings. 

Contradicting Perry and and the HHSC’ claims that there will be sufficient providers, the reason for the delay is the need to verify that there are enough doctors for the Texas WHP to launch. The state will also continue accepting federal funding, meaning they must allow Planned Parenthood to participate. Again, this in spite of the fact that Texas officials claimed that they would be ready and able to fund and run the program.

This is a huge victory not just for Planned Parenthood, but for the many women who use Planned Parenthood to receive affordable healthcare. Massive cuts already made to the Texas family planning budget has caused 53 of 240 clinics that received state money for family planning to close. Without Planned Parenthood, remaining clinics will be swamped with new patients, including the 40% of women in the WHP who already choose Planned Parenthood as their provider.

Right now, Planned Parenthood and the state of Texas are locked in fierce court battles. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied one of Planned Parenthood’s requests to rehear its challenge to the state’s attempt to ban them. When this happened, Planned Parenthood filed another lawsuit, claiming that the “Affiliate Ban Rule” is invalid because state law states that any provision that would cause Texas to lose federal funding for the WHP is “inoperative.” Because of this latest lawsuit, last Friday, a Travis County district judge issued a temporary restraining order, meaning that Planned Parenthood is currently allowed to remain a part of the WHP.

Clearly, Perry and the HHSC are making a mistake by attempting to run its own WHP, lacking funding, capacity, and potentially harming thousands of women that they are supposed to be helping.