By Blake Rocap, interim executive director and legislative counsel
Motivated by Texas’ alarmingly high maternal mortality rate, North Texas-based East Dallas Persistent Women activists investigated the providers listed on a state website as participating in the Healthy Texas Women program. Their findings, released in a report last week, affirm what our student-led research at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and other organizations have consistently uncovered about Texas’ state-funded family planning programs—thousands of phone numbers are duplicates and therefore give an inaccurate picture of provider capacity; a wide range of health care providers listed as participating in the family planning program don’t actually provide reproductive health services, while others confirm that they don’t participate in the program at all.
This latest report is further evidence that the HTW program is inaccessible to the Texans who need it most because anti-abortion legislators, in decimating the program year after year, continue to prioritize politics over women’s lives.
Gov. Greg Abbott and his yes men at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have failed in their attempt to recreate a once successful program that received a $9 to $1 match of federal dollars before funding was slashed and effective community based providers were kicked out in 2011. HHSC now touts this third iteration of the program as a success but inflates the number of providers and can’t provide an accurate list of participating doctors. The agency also points to a client enrollment number inflated by auto-enrollment as a sign of success without any data that successful public health programs and researchers use to evaluate programs such as: unduplicated patient numbers, services provided, and a population level analysis of other costs avoided by providing preventative healthcare. Further, the agency has violated its own policy by awarding a significant amount of Healthy Texas Women funding to an ideological anti-abortion organization, the Heidi Group, with no experience providing medical care in an ongoing attempt to legitimize anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers over actual medical providers.
Despite a consistent outcry about the litany of problems with Healthy Texas Women, politics and ineptitude have allowed the dysfunction to continue while thousands of Texans go without health care. Let’s be clear—this is the direct result of the decisions made by Gov. Abbott, LT. Gov. Dan Patrick and the anti-abortion contingent in the Texas Legislature. If we change the decision makers this November, this failing program can be reformed to the success it once was.
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