May 21, 2015 — A Texas House and Senate conference committee on Wednesday reached an agreement on a proposed budget that would prohibit clinics affiliated with abortion providers from participating in a women's cancer screening program, the Texas Tribune reports (Ura, Texas Tribune, 5/20).
The state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program uses state and federal funds to provide no-cost cancer screenings and diagnostic tests to low-income women ages 21 to 64 who do not have health insurance or are underinsured.
The Texas Senate budget proposal and Texas House budget proposal both would have reduced or eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood to participate in the BCCS program by creating a tiered system for allocating money.
Under the tiered system, public entities, such as state-funded community clinics, would have received priority for the money, followed by private clinics. Meanwhile, private clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, would have received funding for the screening program only if money was left from the first two tiers (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/24).
Details of Conference Committee Agreement
According to the Tribune, the conference committee scrapped the tiered funding system out of a concern that clinics that do not perform abortions might not have received funding under the arrangement.
Instead, the conference committee's budget agreement would bar all facilities affiliated with abortion providers from receiving funding under the BCCS program. Under state law, Planned Parenthood facilities that perform screenings for cancer are barred from performing abortions if they receive taxpayer funding.
According to the Tribune, the budget provision is intended to target 17 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas currently serve roughly 10% of women participating in the BCCS program. Specifically, affiliates of Planned Parenthood in fiscal year 2014 served nearly 3,000 women and received about $1.2 million in funding under the program.
Under the agreement, clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers could still receive BCCS funding if the state cannot find other eligible providers for the program in certain areas.
Planned Parenthood Voices Opposition
Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director at Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said "certain members of the budget conference committee have made clear that they prioritize politics over protecting access to life saving cancer screenings for Texas women" (Texas Tribune, 5/20).