November 20, 2012 — Texas Rep. Lon Burnam (D) last week filed a bill (HB 58) that would remove language from a 2011 law that bars abortion providers or their affiliates from participating in the state's Women's Health Program, the American Independent reports. The program provides contraception, cancer screenings and other preventive care for low-income women in the state (Tuma, American Independent, 11/16).
Earlier this year, Texas decided to enforce the law, launching a dispute with the federal government and an ongoing legal battle with Planned Parenthood. The federal government, which covers most of the program's cost, is ending the funding because of the state's move to exclude certain providers. The state previously announced it plans to launch its own program without federal money (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/9).
Burnam said the state is targeting Planned Parenthood for ideological reasons. The enforcement of the WHP rule followed the state's move to cut family planning funding by two-thirds, which led dozens of clinics to close or reduce hours, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine article.
"We have a crisis on our hands," Burnam said, adding, "Funding cuts made last legislative session, compounded with the governor's ideological commitment not to take federal tax dollars, are leading women into desperate circumstances and severely limiting their access to health care. We've really made a bad situation worse."
Burnam said that many lawmakers "acted inappropriately and without reflection last session," adding, "It's a learning process for my colleagues who don't understand what they did to women and women's health care" (American Independent, 11/16).