The Texas Department of State Health Services got an earful today from lawmakers and women’s health advocates at a public meeting in Austin to discuss proposed rules for the Texas Women’s Health Program — specifically, the state’s plan to sacrifice 90 percent of federal funding for the program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood and prevent participating physicians from discussing abortion in any capacity with patients.
“Try to get the politics out of the way and do what’s best for Texas women,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, before an eruption of applause from the audience. She emphasized a point reiterated by others testifying at the hearing: that the Women’s Health Program provides cancer screenings, birth control and wellness exams for 130,000 low-income women but does not provide abortions.
One of the proposed rules for the program states that a participating physician could not “promote elective abortions” by providing “counseling concerning the use of abortion as a method of family planning” — even outside the scope of the Women’s Health Program. Physician groups, including the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, oppose the proposed rule, arguing it will put a “gag order” on physicians that could interfere with patient-physician relationships.
“We strongly oppose any interference into a physician’s ability to use his or her medical judgment as to the information that is in the best interest of his or her patient,” the groups wrote in a letter to DSHS.
Although Planned Parenthood clinics account for less than 2 percent of the providers participating in the program, 45 percent of women participating in the program chose to receive care at Planned Parenthood.
Opponents of the state’s decision to knock Planned Parenthood and other providers out of the WHP worry the state will not be able to provide an adequate health network. But the state and proponents of the reformed Texas Women’s Health Program say that won’t be a problem, as Planned Parenthood clinics make up a small portion of the 2,500 providers enrolled in the program.
What a silly argument that is. As we have discussed, the vast majority of existing providers in the WHP served at most ten clients. Claiming that the loss of Planned Parenthood will cause no disruption in service to the WHP patients is like saying there would be no disruption in the smarphone market if Apple were to disappear because hey, they’re just one manufacturer. You can find that letter to the DSHS here, and for more see State Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna’s op-ed in the Chron, and this letter from Senate Democrats to outgoing HHSC Chair Tom Suehs.