In pushing a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that cuts off funds for Planned Parenthood, Republicans are out to reassure women who rely on the major health care organization that other clinics will step up to provide their low-cost breast exams, contraception and cancer screenings.
Texas is already trying to prove it. But one big bet is quietly sputtering, and in danger of teaching the opposite lesson conservatives are after.
Last summer, Texas gave $1.6 million to an anti-abortion organization called the Heidi Group to help strengthen small clinics that specialize in women’s health like Planned Parenthood but don’t offer abortions. The goal was to help the clinics boost their patient rolls and show there would be no gap in services if the nation’s largest abortion provider had to scale back.
The effort offered a model other conservative states could follow if Republicans make their long-sought dream of defunding Planned Parenthood a reality under President Donald Trump. Several states are already moving to curtail the organization’s funds.
But eight months later, the Heidi Group has little to show for its work. An Associated Press review found the nonprofit has done little of the outreach it promised, such as helping clinics promote their services on Facebook, or airing public service announcements. It hasn’t made good on plans to establish a 1-800 number to help women find providers or ensure that all clinics have updated websites.
Neither the group nor state officials would say how many patients have been served so far by the private clinics.
The Heidi Group is led by Carol Everett, a prominent anti-abortion activist and influential conservative force in the Texas Legislature.
In a brief interview, Everett said some of the community clinics aren’t cooperating despite her best efforts to attract more clients.
“We worked on one Facebook site for three months and they didn’t want to do it. And we worked on websites and they didn’t want to do it,” Everett said of the clinics. “We can’t force them. We’re not forcing them.”
Everett said that advertising she planned was stalled by delays in a separate $5.1 million family planning contract.
Everett proposed helping two dozen selected clinics serve 50,000 women overall in a year, more than such small facilities would normally handle. Clinic officials contacted by the AP either did not return phone calls or would not speak on the record.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which awarded the funding to the Heidi Group, acknowledged the problems. Spokeswoman Carrie Williams said in an email that the agency had to provide “quite a bit” of technical support for the effort and make many site visits. She disputed that the contract funding has been as slow as Everett alleged.
“The bottom line is that we are holding our contractors accountable, and will do everything we can to help them make themselves successful,” she said.
See here and here for some background on the Heidi Group. I’m thinking that maybe the reason these clinics didn’t want Carol Everett’s help is because she’s incompetent. Nothing in her history suggests she has any of the relevant skills, and clearly promoting women’s health isn’t her main focus. Anti-abortion activists tend to be pretty hostile to things like contraception, and often are quite ignorant of basic biology, so who can blame the clinics for keeping her at arm’s length. But let’s let Carol Everett herself sum this up:
Asked whether the Heidi Group would meet the patient targets in her contract, Everett said her own goal was to serve 70,000 women.
However, “it’s not as easy as it looks because we are not Planned Parenthood. We are working with private physicians and providers,” Everett said after leaving a committee hearing this week at the Texas Capitol. She said the clinics she is working with are busy seeing 40 to 50 women a day. “They don’t have time to go out and do some of the things that we would really like to help them do. But we’re there if they want to. And we’re there when the need it. And we’re in their offices and we’re helping them.”
Emphasis mine. No, you’re not. And you never will be. Link via the Current.