Gov. Rick Perry notified President Obama on Thursday that Texas will find the money to continue to fund the Women’s Health Program, no matter what the federal government does. But Planned Parenthood won't be allowed to participate — and the program may no longer be affiliated with Medicaid.
“We’re going to fund this program. … That’s a moot point,” Perry said. He declined to say where he'd get the roughly $35 million the federal government provides every year, but told reporters that the state would not drop the program that has become a political football between Washington and Texas.
“We’ll find the money. The state is committed to this program,” he told reporters. “This program is not going away.”
Perry and Republican leaders in the Legislature don’t want Planned Parenthood to be allowed to participate in the $40-million-per-year program, which is designed to help low-income women get birth-control pills, family-planning help and cancer screenings. Though no clinics that accept funding from the program may perform abortions, the state's Health and Human Services commissioner signed a rule last week that forces Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide more than 40 percent of the program's services, out of the program anyway.
The Obama administration believes that move is illegal, and has said the federal government will not renew the Medicaid waiver program at the end of March if Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion providers are excluded. Currently, the state puts in $1 for every $9 contributed by the federal government to the Women's Health Program.
Sarah Wheat, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Capital Region, said that if Perry has suddenly "identified newly available state funding to support women's health and birth control," her organization urges him to use it to restore tens of millions of dollars in cuts made to state family planning during the last legislative session, as opposed to shoring up the Women's Health Program.
"We realize Governor Perry has a history of forgetting," she said. "But most low-income Texan women remember well that last year, Governor Perry eliminated 2/3 of the budget for women’s preventive health care."
Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman confirmed that the agency is trying to find the funding to keep the program going without the federal government; health officials received a letter from Perry on Thursday directing them to do so. "Keeping the program alive with state funds will actually cost less than eliminating the program if the federal funding is cut off," she said. "That's because the program saves money by reducing the number of births that Medicaid would have to cover."
But she said that the program probably wouldn't be able to be affiliated with Medicaid — the joint state-federal health provider for children, the disabled and the very poor — because there would be no federal dollars coming in.
Perry said Texas has a “multibillion-dollar budget, so we have the ability to be flexible.” He said Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to send their dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics, which can refer for abortions even if they can't perform them.
“Texans don’t want Planned Parenthood, a known abortion provider, to be involved in this,” he said. “We’ve made that decision, and that should be the state’s right to decide.”
Gov. Rick Perry blasted the White House and federal judiciary Thursday for messing with Texas over abortion policies and redistricting maps.
Speaking on the Mark Davis radio show on WBAP in Dallas, Perry said the federal courts were to blame for delaying Texas’ primaries to May 29. He said the judges should have accepted the Legislature’s GOP-drawn redistricting maps.
“We crafted a good plan, and these judges decided they were gonna stick their nose in it and fouled it up and cost us money and pushed it back, and they didn’t really make any substantive changes,’’ Perry said.
Democrats and minority groups alleged the state maps that lawmakers drew last year were illegal and discriminatory. They sued to have them thrown out.
A San Antonio court issued new maps that were more favorable to Democrats, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it had overreached. Now an interim plan is much closer to what the Legislature originally wanted, but the primary has been delayed from early March to late May.
“It was all for naught from my perspective,” Perry said.
Perry dropped his bid for the White House in January, but he has signaled he will keep speaking out on states’ rights and 10th Amendment protections against what he sees as an overreaching federal government.
“This administration has clearly said, ‘We can do better than Texas. As a matter of fact, we’ll run Texas. You all just send us more money, and we’ll tell you what you can do and how you can do it,’” Perry said on the radio show. “No thank you, Mr. President. That’s not what the 10th Amendment says, and we’re going to stand up for it and we’re going to fight for it every day.”
Later today, Perry will take part in a giant welcoming ceremony for state Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, who just defected from the Democratic Party. Other Republican leaders, including Comptroller Susan Combs, House Speaker Joe Straus and Attorney General Greg Abbott, are also expected to attend.