With the odds of Congress repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood before August recess getting slimmer by the day, lawmakers in Texas are thinking outside the box. If approved, their unconventional method of defunding Planned Parenthood could be implemented in states across the country.
Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott submitted a waiver requesting that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approve federal funding for his state’s family planning program which excludes abortions.
Initially a joint state-federal program, Texas’s family planning program began in 2007 as the “Women’s Health Program,” but has since been re-named “Healthy Texas Women.” It allocates funds to clinics which provide reproductive health services such as contraception, STI testing, and cancer screenings for low-income patients. However, any clinics that “perform or promote elective abortion” are excluded from participation.
In 2011, when the Texas Health and Human Services Commission started trying to enforce a prohibition against Planned Parenthood, the organization sued the state. The next year, a circuit court of appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood and upheld the ban.
But then, when the Obama administration’s approval was needed for renewal of the program, it was denied. Unwilling to discontinue the program, Texas resorted to funding it entirely with state dollars. Now, with pro-life President Trump in the White House, the state is hoping their federal funding can be restored. If their petition is approved, the Texas program could receive the roughly $35 million per year that had been blocked by President Obama.
If it succeeds, this roundabout way of defunding Planned Parenthood could be mimicked by lawmakers in other states, Jennifer Popik of National Right to Life told The Hill:
This would have implications nationwide if this gets approved. For an administration with a pro-life focus, this is something they could do to divert funding from Planned Parenthood.
Texas Right to Life legislative director John Seago called the plan a “win-win solution” for providing reproductive care without funding abortions:
Republicans do want a strong network for women’s health services, and the prospect that you can do that while protecting life is something that I think a lot of states would jump on board with . . . It is perplexing that the abortion advocates would be opposed to this waiver, because they are always highlighting the need for more funding of women’s health services. It shows that their true purpose is really trying to get taxpayer dollars. They want a piece of the pie, and so they don’t like women’s health programs that don’t include them getting taxpayer funding.
Kinsey Hasstedt of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute also foresees a domino effect emanating from Texas, although she does not see it as a positive development that Texas could “open the floodgates for this to be implemented in other states.”
CMS is currently accepting public comments on the waiver and will make its decision whether or not to approve Texas’ request sometime after August 4.
Since Republicans control the majority of state legislatures and governorships, this new tactic for defunding Planned Parenthood may prove a viable alternative to waiting for the federal government to get around to it.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0