October 19, 2015 — Texas health officials have added language to the requirements for contracting with the state's abstinence education program to specifically ban abortion affiliates from participation, the Texas Tribune reports.
Texas' Abstinence Education Program contracts with local organizations to teach abstinence sexuality education. According to the state Health and Human Services Commission's "request for proposals," the state intends to set aside roughly $3 million for the program in fiscal year 2016, with a maximum of $300,000 for each individual contract.
The language was proposed even though the current state budget does not include language that specifically bans affiliates of abortion clinics from taking part in the program. Rather, according to the Texas Tribune, HHSC officials added in the new language to guidelines for the abstinence program to target Planned Parenthood.
Specifically, the requirements outlined in HHSC's request for proposals specifically ban any applicants that "affiliate with any entity that performs elective abortion procedures"; are within 1,000 feet of an abortion provider or affiliate; or have names that include or are similar to that of an abortion provider, affiliate or "or any entity that engages in pro-abortion advocacy."
Meanwhile, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson said the organization does not take part in the program.
HHSC spokesperson Bryan Black said officials by adding the new language are "taking our guidance from the Texas Legislature." He said, "We see a clear legislative directive of shifting state resources away from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers" and the request for proposals "is a reflection of that policy."
Meanwhile, state Rep. Donna Howard (D), a member of the state House Appropriations committee, said the state budget lacked a "clear directive" for the agency to include language banning groups affiliated with abortion providers from the program. "I think it's a slippery slope to take cues [from the state Legislature] when they're not specified," she said, adding, "That could work in all kinds of directions based on cues that any number of us in the [state] Legislature might give. Without a specific directive, I don't believe that's a wise course of action" (Ura, Texas Tribune, 10/15).