Obama cuts off federal funds from Texas women's health program -- hey liberals, who's really waging a "war on women" now???
Obama administration to end funding for Texas health program for low-income women; at odds with state law on abortion
The federal government will stop funding a Texas health
program that serves 130,000 low-income women because of a state law that
bars abortion-affiliated clinics from getting public money, a top U.S.
health official said Friday.
The federal money, which covers 90 percent of the state's $40 million
program, will be phased out between May and September because the law
violates federal regulations requiring that women have a choice in
medical care, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said
during a trip to Houston.
That means the Women's Health Program will
join a long list of programs nationwide on the chopping block because of
their affiliations with Planned Parenthood or other groups that offer
The announcement came a day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry pledged to
find state money to keep the program afloat, though details remain
scarce about where the money would come from. Texas suffered massive
spending cuts last year due to a $15 billion deficit, though a state
health services official said Friday that Texas would prefer to increase
its deficit than completely eliminate the program.
Perry blasted Sebelius' announcement, insisting Medicaid rules give
states the right to determine which clinics are qualified to provide
women's health care.
"The fact that the Obama administration would announce its decision
to deny care for more than 100,000 low-income women during a press event
before giving official notice to the state is a clear demonstration of
the political motivation behind this decision," he said in a written
statement, adding that Texas officials are still waiting for official
word on the decision.
As is the case with other programs now in the national spotlight, the
Women's Health Program provides cancer screenings, family planning and
other women's health services. About 44 percent of women in the Texas
program go to Planned Parenthood clinics, although none that accept
funding from the program may perform abortions, and no federal funds are
used to terminate pregnancies.
The problem in Texas is being caused by lawmakers' desire to prevent
state funds from going to Planned Parenthood. The state is implementing a
law that bars public funds from going to any programs, organizations or
groups that are affiliated with abortions, even if they don't perform
After touring a hospital in Houston, Sebelius said the state law
violates federal Medicaid regulations that require women be allowed to
choose where they go for health care. Federal funds flowed to Texas
under a waiver, but "we plan to let Texas know that that waiver will not
be extended," Sebelius said.
The money will be phased out so women have time to find alternative care, she said.
The state was warned that implementing the law would jeopardize
federal funding, and Texas chose not to immediately enforce it when it
was passed, Sebelius added.
"They knew ... they are not allowed to deny women the right to
choose," Sebelius said. "Women would be losing their doctor, their
medical home, their choice."
Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Health and
Human Services, said money to pay for the program would be diverted
from others that are under budget — though she didn't offer specifics.
If that doesn't cover the costs, she said, the state would increase its
deficit to pay for the services because officials believe that if
low-income women don't have access to birth control, the birth rate
would rise and cost the state another $57 million in maternity bills.
Last year, Texas lawmakers slashed state funding for women's health
and family planning programs by $73.6 million — cutting services to
160,000 women. They also took $10 million from a separate family
planning budget line and shifted those responsibilities to organizations
that administer Medicaid in Texas.
Now, with the expected cut in federal funds, "there's a huge gap in family planning" in Texas, Sebelius said.
State Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston, said she and members of
Congress are negotiating with Sebelius and federal officials to find a
way to ensure that the funds don't stop flowing.
And while Sebelius said her department has been trying to work with
the state to provide a solution, she didn't indicate that would happen
before March 14, when the state plans to begin enforcing the law.
"We have been working with Texas. We're eager to work with Texas to
find a solution," Sebelius said. "But if Texas chooses to go down a road
that violates the law, we really have no choice."
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