Advocates: Poor Women Will Be Most Affected by Texas' Medicaid Cuts to Planned Parenthood

Dec 22, 2016

Texas officials are trying again to take state funding away from Planned Parenthood in Texas. This time, they are kicking the chain of women’s health clinics out of the state’s Medicaid program, which could affect roughly 11,000 Medicaid recipients across the state.

Planned Parenthood officials got a letter Tuesday saying the state is terminating its Medicaid contract with them in 30 days.

According to state officials, Planned Parenthood got $ 4.2 million from that contract during the last fiscal year. So, the financial impact could be substantial for Planned Parenthood, which uses those funds to provide cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing to Medicaid enrollees.

“It is easily safe to say that this is just yet another effort by the State of Texas that will impact low-income women from receiving access to care,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Planned Parenthood’s political action arm.

It was just a couple years ago that Texas officials kicked Planned Parenthood – and other clinics that also provide abortions – out of the state’s family planning program.

Joseph Potter, a researcher with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, says he found that decision made it harder for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the state.

Potter says, if this contract termination goes through, it’s likely to have a similar effect on access to birth control and other health care.

“It’s a blow to the women who are Medicaid-enrolled and getting service  from Planned Parenthood because, they've got to go find someplace else and it’s not that easy,” he said. “The new place may ask them to get tests; they may not have the method they are using in stock. You know, other things can go wrong.”

Women in rural areas could be most affected, Potter says, but they won’t be alone.

“So, it’s going to be worse where Planned Parenthood is the main, and perhaps the only, provider than some place where it’s a large city, like Houston,” Potter explained. “But even so, Houston, it’s not guaranteed that you can just walk across the street and find another provider.”

In bigger cities’ transportation costs have become a barrier to access. Because Medicaid serves women living in poverty, Potter says asking them to find a new provider, as well as a way to get to there could be tough in some cases.

Gutierrez says they are seeking a court order to stop the Medicaid cuts from going into effect.

“No matter what, we will pursue this legal effort and legal challenge here in Texas and continue to provide the care that women need,” she said.

In its letter notifying Planned Parenthood of the move, the state says it’s terminating the contract because of an undercover video from 2015 purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue.

The video was highly edited and a grand jury eventually took no action against Planned Parenthood.

However, the Texas Office of the Inspector General says the video shows “numerous violations of generally accepted standards of medical practice.”

According to a statement from Gov. Greg Abbott's office, the governor "has made clear that Texas will not subsidize an organization that admits a willingness to alter an abortion procedure in order to profit off the harvesting of baby body parts."

State health officials also argue they have recently increased funding for women’s health services overall in the state.

"Texas women can get free or affordable healthcare services statewide through the Healthy Texas Women program," said Bryan Black, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. "This program offers comprehensive healthcare, including birth control, pregnancy tests, health screenings and treatment for hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol. Also, the Family Planning Program now offers more services, including limited prenatal care."

You can read the state's full notice of termination below.