October 19, 2012 — Texas intends to end its Women's Health Program if a court strikes down the state's move to exclude affiliates of abortion providers from the program, according to new rules released on Thursday by the state health and human services department, the AP/Longview News-Journal reports (Tomlinson, AP/Longview News-Journal, 10/19).
Previously, the federal government covered 90% of the cost of WHP in Texas, but federal officials are ending the funding because of the state's move to exclude certain providers. The state previously announced it would launch its own program on Nov. 1 to serve the 115,000 low-income women who receive preventive health care through WHP (MacLaggan, Reuters, 10/18).
Details of New Rules
Kyle Janek, the state's health commissioner, said the new rules reflect the intent of the Legislature (AP/Longview News-Journal, 10/19).
In addition to affirming the ban on affiliates of abortion providers, the rules attempt to address objections from doctors who had worried they would be barred from discussing abortion with their patients (Fikac, Houston Chronicle, 10/18).
Under the rules, doctors will be permitted to speak with patients about abortion, but they cannot actively assist women in obtaining abortions, Janek said (AP/Longview News-Journal, 10/19). The rules also allow doctors to participate in WHP if they do not perform abortions themselves but are in a group practice with an abortion provider (Houston Chronicle, 10/18).
Impact on Access
The future of the program now hinges on the outcome of Planned Parenthood's ongoing legal challenge to the ban on participation by affiliates of abortion providers. The organization has requested that a federal appeals court review a lower court's decision upholding the ban (Reuters, 10/18).
Planned Parenthood clinics serve 44% of the program's participants (AP/Longview News-Journal, 10/19). The group's affiliates in Texas and various health experts have raised concern that other facilities will be unable to absorb the patients who currently receive care thorough Planned Parenthood (Reuters, 10/18).
Janek acknowledged that the state has not enrolled enough new providers to make up for the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics. Now that the rules are published, officials will work quickly to sign up more clinics, he said (AP/Longview News-Journal, 10/19).