The Big Conversation:
With criticism mounting, Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday that the Women's Health Program will live on.
Perry said the state would continue to fund the program, which has been caught in the middle of a fight between state lawmakers and the Obama administration stemming from Republicans' efforts to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood.
“We’re going to fund this program. … That’s a moot point,” said Perry, who declined to say where the state would find the $35 million the federal government provides for the Medicaid program each year. “We’ll find the money," he added. "The state is committed to this program. This program is not going away.”
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Perry and Republican lawmakers have attempted to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the health program, which currently provides reproductive screenings and services for about 130,000 low-income Texas women. The Obama administration has called Republicans' effort illegal and said the federal government would not renew funding for the program. (No clinics that accept funding from the program may perform abortions, and Planned Parenthood provides about 40 percent of the program's services.)
Perry reaffirmed that Planned Parenthood wouldn't be allowed to participate in the program. “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.”
The Health and Human Services Commission indicated that the program would likely no longer be affiliated with Medicaid. "Keeping the program alive with state funds will actually cost less than eliminating the program if the federal funding is cut off," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the agency. "That's because the program saves money by reducing the number of births that Medicaid would have to cover."
- On a visit to Texas on Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with Gov. Rick Perry to discuss a possible request for a waiver on the No Child Left Behind Act. During their private meeting, the political adversaries also talked community college and tuition rates in higher education. After a town hall event in Austin earlier in the day, Duncan commended the Texas law Perry signed that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities. Perry, who has called for shuttering the Department of Education, caught flak for the tuition law from Republicans during his failed presidential bid.
- Rick Perry lightly criticized Rush Limbaugh on Thursday for recently calling a Georgetown University law student a "slut." Perry said people who call others names need to “grow up and use appropriate language," but he added that Limbaugh has been attacked by hypocritical liberals. “I think it’s the height of hypocrisy for those on the left to criticize Rush Limbaugh for using the term 'slut' when Ed Schultz and a vast group of other people that represent the left have used those terms,” Perry said of the MSNBC host who last year called conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut.” “And we never heard a peep of anyone coming to MSNBC saying you need to pull your advertisement and what have you.”
- State Rep. J.M. Lozano made his switch to the Republican Party official on Thursday, saying at a news conference attended by Rick Perry and several other state leaders that he'd been treated poorly by members of his former party. "In the words of President Ronald Reagan, 'I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me,'" Lozano said. "This last session was very difficult for me for the simple fact that I always intended to always vote my district, and to never be bullied into submission. And I would get, at times, mistreated by members of the Democratic caucus because I was voting conservative." In a statement, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, shot back: “I know this was a personal decision and it could not have been easy for him. But the unease that he felt in making the decision to switch parties will be nothing compared to the discomfort of actually being a Latino Republican."
"I don’t think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we’re opposed to are abortions. Planned Parenthood is the main organization that does abortions, so we kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood." — State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, on cuts to women's clinics that have stemmed from an effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood
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