Another attack on poor women: Texas ousts Planned Parenthood from cancer screening program

Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed a ban on the healthcare provider's non-abortion-related services for low-income women

By Jenny Kutner
Published June 23, 2015 4:30PM (EDT)

It got even harder to be a low-income woman in Texas over the weekend. Following a federal appeals court ruling on Friday that will leave the state with just nine abortion clinics, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a budget proposal that will effectively oust Planned Parenthood from Texas' Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides cancer screenings for uninsured, low-income women.

Abbott's anticipated move marks a win for Texas conservatives, who have tried repeatedly to eliminate all taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood in an effort to further reduce abortion access in the state. The organization has already been targeted with regard to cancer screenings before, with state lawmakers prohibiting the nearly two dozen clinics involved in the screening program from accepting taxpayer dollars if they also provide abortion services. In accordance with the budget provision the governor signed off on Saturday, any clinics affiliated with abortion providers will no longer receive funding for cancer screening services.

“It’s really incredible how low the governor and some of the state legislators will go when you start throwing women out of cancer screening programs and making it impossible for them to continue to go get services where they have before,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards told the Texas Tribune.

Antiabortion advocates of the measure, however, have lauded the move to effectively cut off low-income Texans' access to basic, live-saving healthcare. Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-choice group Texas Alliance for Life, called Abbott's endorsement a "big victory."

“We think the money is far better spent on the numerous alternative providers that are available throughout Texas,” Pojman told the Tribune. “I don't think that [Planned Parenthood] will be missed at all when they leave the program, because there’s such a vast network of providers -- many of whom provide a far higher level of services.”

According to recent estimates, Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings, often an entry point for other much-needed healthcare services, to 10 percent of the 33,000-plus women currently enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program. Last year, the organization received an estimated $1.2 million in funding, some of which might still go to some Planned Parenthood clinics should the program fail to find other cancer screening providers in certain parts of the state.

More from the Texas Tribune:

The Breast and Cervical Cancer Services provision in the budget nixes some of the last taxpayer dollars Planned Parenthood received in Texas. The Republican-led Legislature in 2011 slashed the state’s budget for family planning by two-thirds in an effort to keep health providers even loosely affiliated with abortion providers, namely Planned Parenthood, from receiving state tax dollars.

Ejecting Planned Parenthood from the joint state-federal Medicaid Women’s Health Program cost the state a $9-to-$1 match from the federal government. That forced state health officials to relaunch the program as the state-financed Texas Women’s Health Program to keep Planned Parenthood out.

But some Planned Parenthood affiliates continued to receive dollars from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which is primarily funded by federal money. In fiscal year 2014, funding for the program included $7.8 million from the federal government and $2.4 million from the state.

Jenny Kutner

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