The state of Texas is defying attacks form the Obama administration in the form of threats to revoke federal funding if the state cuts of its funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state lawmakers have directed the Texas Health and Human Services commissioner to sign a rule yesterday that officially bans Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses from participating in the Texas’ Women’s Health Program.
In December, the Obama Administration refused to renew funding for Texas’ Women’s Health Program (WHP) because of new state rules that disqualify abortion business affiliates from participation in the program. The WHP encompasses Medicaid family planning services for low income women. The program started through authorizing legislation in 2005 and was renewed in the recent 82nd Legislative Session with new pro-life rules.
Planned Parenthood—the number one abortion business in Texas—circulated a letter in the Capitol, confirming that they provide over 40% of the services in the entire WHP and legislators responding by yanking taxpayer funds to ensure Texas residents were not funding an abortion business. Governor Rick Perry signed the de-funding law to the delight of pro-life advocates.
The Texas Tribune indicates the new rule Commissioner Tom Suehs signed on Thursday making the de-funding official takes effect March 14.
“Under federal law, states administer Medicaid and have the right to set the criteria for providers in the program. That is what Texas is doing,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the agency. “We have a state law that our Attorney General says is constitutional, and it clearly bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women’s Health Program. We can’t violate a perfectly valid state law just to appease Washington. We hope CMS will reverse its position and allow the program to continue.”
Because the Obama administration has threatened the state with cutting off federal funding, Texas officials have no choice but to end the program by the end of March. Instead of blaming Obama officials, Planned Parenthood faults Texas for protecting taxpayers.
“No one’s politics should interfere with a woman’s access to health care,” said Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast President and CEO Peter J. Durkin. “It is shameful that Governor Perry and Commissioner Suehs continue to politicize lifesaving breast cancer screenings and birth control access for low-income women.”
On the other hand, pro-life advocates credit Texas legislators and officials for ensuring money is not flowing to an abortion business.
“The Legislature has spoken. The attorney general has said it is constitutional. The Commissioner has signed the rule,” said Kyleen Wright, president of the Texas for Life Coalition. “If Planned Parenthood cared as much about affordable health care for women as they say, they would get out of the way so that the program could continue.”
Looking back and the dustup between Texas and the Obama administration, the administration sent a letter to inform the Texas Health and Human Services Commission of its intent to deny a request to extend the Medicaid Women’s Health Program if Texas complies with its law banning contractors “that perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.”
Texas yanked about $16 million in funding from Planned Parenthood and directed the funds to agencies that do not do abortions. In conjunction with that, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission submitted a request to the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services to continue its family planning program without funding Planned Parenthood or other abortion agencies.
As it has in Indiana and New Hampshire, the Obama administration denied the request and, according to the Texas Tribune, Cindy Mann, director of the federal agency, wrote a letter to Texas officials saying its request is a violation of the federal Social Security Act.
“We want to be very clear [that] Medicaid does not pay for abortions and will not pay for abortions,” Mann told the Tribune. “We indicated to the state today [that] their proposal violates the longstanding law.”
Mann told the newspaper the Obama administration would allow Texas to continue de-funding Planned Parenthood until March, by which the state would have to work with federal officials to determine how to move forward.
“We’re very much interested in continuing discussions with them on having a longstanding renewal of the family planning demonstration program,” Mann said. “…The issue here is not whether Medicaid funding is involved but whether the state can restrict access to a qualified health provider simply because they provide other services Medicaid doesn’t pay for.”
Gov. Rick Perry told the newspaper he was uspet by the Obama administration’s decision, “I am concerned the Obama Administration is playing politics by holding women’s health care hostage because of Texas’ pro-life policies,” saying Obama is “sacrificing the health of millions of Texas women in the name of their pro-abortion agenda.”
Joe Pojman, the director of Texas Alliance for Life also condemned the decision in comments to LifeNews.
“We believe the State of Texas has every right to deny millions of tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, which is what the Texas Legislature and Governor Perry has chosen to do,” he said. “Senate Bill 7, passed last summer during a special legislative session, prohibits Medicaid tax dollars under the Women’s Health Program from going to abortion providers and their affiliated organizations.”
“This bill excludes several dozen Planned Parenthood sites from the Women’s Health Program, but it does not exclude any other hundreds of Women’s Health Program providers in Texas. Many of the other providers offer comprehensive primary and preventative care to low- income women in addition to family planning, which Planned Parenthood is unable or unwilling to provide,” he continued. “By threatening to cancel the Women’s Health Program in Texas, the Obama Administration is showing it would sooner deny tens of millions of dollars of medical services to low-income women rather than allow the State of Texas to cut off tax funding to Planned Parenthood.”
Elizabeth Graham, the head of Texas Right to Life also responded to the news in an email to LifeNews.
“The Obama administration is adhering to its pro-abortion agenda by playing politics with women’s health. Over 300 clean health care agencies are available to provide family planning services across Texas, but the Obama administration wants to keep taxpayers funds flowing to abortion providers at all costs, which exploits and jeopardizes the health of women,” she said.
On February 17, 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion affirming that the state may exclude providers that perform abortions or are affiliates of abortion providers from a Medicaid program.
The Texas de-funding has already resulted in the closing of 12 Planned Parenthood centers.
“A new confirmed total of 12 Planned Parenthood facilities have been shut down in Texas since the end of the 82ndlegislative special session, which dealt the abortion industry a $64.2 million blow. Without government funding, Planned Parenthood facilities are withering on the vine. New funding priorities set by the legislature detail that any facility associated with the abortion industry is given the lowest priority for family planning funds. As a result, three Planned Parenthood affiliates have been forced to close several of their facilities in order to reduce operating costs,” said Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life.
In September, the Obama administration made a decision to force New Hampshire taxpayers to fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business after the state’s Executive Council voted to revoke a $1.8 million contract. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will provide the contract for family planning with Planned Parenthood directly from the federal government to the abortion business rather than routing the money through the state and letting New Hampshire officials determine who should receive the Title X grants. The council voted against funding because Planned Parenthood does abortions and its top officials earn big six-figure salaries.
The decision came after the Obama administration sent the state a strongly-worded letter to complain. The Health and Human Services Department is claiming the state broke federal rules in denying the Planned Parenthood contract and it alleges the state must provide family planning services to low-income women and that de-funding Planned Parenthood puts it at risk of losing federal funding by supposedly denying women access to family planning — even though other alternatives are available from other agencies.
After Indiana’s decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the top Medicaid official in the Obama administration denied Indiana’s use of its new state law that would cut off anywhere from $2 million to $3 million the Planned Parenthood abortion business receives in federal funds via the Indiana government through Medicaid. The Obama administration told the state it can’t implement the new law, with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick denying a request to deny funds saying the federal Medicaid law stipulates that states can’t exclude providers based on the services they provide.
Indiana refused to comply and is standing its ground against a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed and is appealing the Obama administration’s ruling that it can’t determine who receives the Medicaid tax dollars the state is given to dole out. But Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, told National Journal, “The way the law was written, it went into effect the moment the governor signed it. We were just advised by our lawyers that we should continue to enforce Indiana law.”