Health
2:04 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Women's Health Program Circling the Drain?

 The Women’s Health Program could be on its way out.

Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said this morning that he doesn’t have the votes in the Senate to bring up a bill to renew the family planning and preventative care program — a measure many Democrats oppose because it would formally ban Planned Parenthood from participating.

Unless the program somehow gets amended onto another bill, or renewed with a special budget provision — GOP lawmakers have expressed their ardent opposition to keeping money for family planning in the cash-strapped budget — Deuell said the program’s remaining hope is Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman’s House Bill 2299, which contains the same anti-abortion elements. But Coleman, who backed a bill with the same language as Deuell's because it was the only chance to get House Republicans to renew the program, said HB 2299 is locked up in the calendars committee, and won't make it to the floor for a vote.

"Is [the Women's Health Program] dead? I hope not," said Coleman, who passed the first Women's Health Program bills in 1999 and 2001, only to have them both vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. (The program finally passed in 2005.) "But it's definitely on life support."

The Women’s Health Program, as founded, came with explicit restrictions: Participating clinics could not perform or promote abortions, or be affiliated with clinics that do. But for the last five years, Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions at some of some of its clinics but not at any that receive state or federal dollars, has been the Women’s Health Program’s single biggest participant. (Forty percent of patients in the program get reproductive health services from Planned Parenthood clinics).

Deuell’s bill, in renewing the Women’s Health Program, would’ve written out all “specialty family planning clinics” like Planned Parenthood in favor of clinics providing comprehensive health care. His measure also has a “self-destruct” provision that would’ve eliminated the Women’s Health Program if Planned Parenthood successfully sued the state to be included in it.

Planned Parenthood has called the proposal “constitutionally abhorrent” and “fiscally irresponsible,” and said the measure would “leave tens of thousands of women without access to basic health care services.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://trib.it/ieLUBe.