Politics
11:25 am
Wed May 11, 2011

Planned Parenthood Prez Wants Texas Bill Squashed

After dining with President Obama at a private fundraiser in West Lake Hills last night, Planned Parenthood's national President Cecile Richards was at the State Capitol this morning to rail against a lstate bill that would limit state funding for services provided by her organization.

"We are absolutely committed to ensuring that women in Texas can continue to receive services from Planned Parenthood for basic preventive care," Richards said during a news conference in the Senate Press Room. 

Senate Bill 1854 would renew funding for the Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program, which provides family planning, health screenings, and contraception to women whose household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.  The program serves about 90,000 low income women in Texas.

But SB 1854 also prohibits Planned Parenthood from delivering any of those services. And about 40 percent of the patients in the Women's Health Program receive them at Planned Parenthood, according to the Texas Tribune.  As the Texas Observer reported earlier this month, the proposed law also contains a powerful deterrent to a lawsuit.

The bill contains a provision that says if Planned Parenthood were to sue in court and win, the program would dissolve all together. If one part of the bill is declared unconstitutional, the whole legislation would be invalidated. And since it reauthorizes the program, if the entire bill is struck down in court, the Women’s Health Program would vanish.

The author of the bill, State Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), told the Houston Chronicle that he is trying to strike a careful political balance.

While he said the bill isn't an "ideal solution," Deuell said he did what was necessary to keep the Women's Health Program running — and that meant honoring the wishes of pro-life groups.

"I'm just facing the political reality," Deuell said. "If I didn't do this, the Women's Health Program wouldn't be renewed. I can't get the bill through any other way."

Anti-abortion activists say Planned Parenthood provides a fairly narrow range of services. Those are "abortion, birth control, some testing, and little else," according to the Texas Alliance for Life.

Planned Parenthood's Richards said today, however, that limiting funding for her organization would do little to restrict abortions, which make up about three percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides.  

"What it would do is take away women's access to birth control," she said at this morning's news conference. "They seem to not care what the result is."