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Texas Loses All Federal Funding of Women’s Health Program in Abortion Spat

The Republican war on women has now cost the second-largest state in the country all its federal Medicaid funding for a women’s health program. The Health and Human Services Department made the announcement yesterday, arguing that Texas’ defunding of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers violated federal guidelines, forfeiting the $39 million in funding.

Twenty-nine states participate in the Medicaid’s Women Health Program, which extends Medicaid coverage for reproductive health services to lower-income women who do not qualify for the rest of the entitlement program’s benefits. In Texas, the program served about 130,000 women, with the federal government footing 90 percent of the bill. About half of the clinics participating in the program would have been disqualified by the new legislation.

“We very much regret the state’s decision to implement this rule, which will prevent women enrolled in the program from receiving services from the trusted health care providers they have chosen and relied on for their care,” Medicaid director Cindy Mann wrote in a Thursday letter to Texas officials.

Other states have ended government funding for abortion providers, but only on the state side. Texas pushed the envelope, and now will lose the vast majority of support for their Women’s Health Program. The Texas legislation bans abortion providers from the program even if they provide other women’s health services. The provision clearly targets Planned Parenthood, which mostly provides services like cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

This clear violation of the law achieves the purpose of blocking access to women’s health. But HHS had little choice but to react to this breaking of federal guidelines. And it’s not the end of the fight. Arizona looks poised to strip state funding of Planned Parenthood. Because that’s limited to state funding, it may not draw the same response from HHS. But it does constrict women’s health options in a troubling way.

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David Dayen

David Dayen