Texas Wants Feds to Restore Family-Planning Funds

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – Texas asked the Trump administration Thursday to reinstate Medicaid funding for low-income women’s health programs in the state, five years after refusing the money to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates.

In a three-page letter, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reinstate Texas to a list of eligible Title X grant recipients.

The Obama administration removed the state after the Texas Legislature excluded Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider and advocate, from the Texas Women’s Health Program in 2012.

The program provided family planning and health services to women ages 18 to 44 with income at or below 185 percent of the poverty line and who did not qualify for Medicaid. The state law conflicted with Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” provision under federal regulations.

In asking for the reinstatement, Paxton applauded the Trump administration’s directive in January to respect laws that “protect the religious and conscience rights” of Americans.

“The new guidance issued to state Medicaid directors restoring the federal government’s respect for the authority of the states to decide program standards is an encouraging sign that the rule of law and respect for the rights of Americans is being restored by the federal government,” the letter states. “Regrettably, the Obama administration often denied the conscience rights of Texas’ voters outright when it came to Texans’ overwhelming support for laws that respect the sanctity of life among the unborn.”

Paxton says the Obama administration codified its exclusion of Texas in federal regulations in 2016, but the Republican-controlled Congress concluded that it “shall have no force or effect” one year later.

“A precursor to participation in federal programs should not be an uncompromising commitment to abortion providers,” Paxton said in a written statement Thursday. “The freedom of conscience should never be demoted to second-class status among our civil liberties.”

Critics say the state’s refusal to fund abortion advocates and accept Medicaid funding has resulted in substantially lower uses of contraception by Medicaid patients and increases in pregnancies.

To compensate for the lost funding, Texas self-funded two replacement women’s health programs for low-income women beginning in 2016 called Healthy Texas Women and Family Planning Program.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016, women who returned to the programs for subsequent on-time contraceptive injections decreased from 56.9 percent to 37.7 percent after the exclusion in counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates. It concluded the rate of childbirth in those counties also increased by 1.9 percent within 18 months after a contraceptive claim.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Thursday afternoon.

Texas first sued the Obama administration in federal court over the matter in March 2012, when the agency denied the state’s request for a Medicaid waiver that would have maintained federal funding for the Texas Women’s Health Program.

Planned Parenthood sued the state in federal court one month later, arguing the ban violated its First Amendment free speech rights by disqualifying groups for their association with abortion advocates and providers.

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