Three Planned Parenthood family planning clinics in Southeast Texas announced plans Thursday to close at the end of August. The closures result from reduced family planning funds and the removal of Planned Parenthood from the state Women’s Health Program, said Melaney Linton, CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
While the closures were announced the same day as Gov. Rick Perry’s signing of omnibus abortion legislation, House Bill 2, the closures are “a completely separate issue” from that new law, Linton said.
Linton said many patients who visit the three clinics cannot afford to pay for services and therefore would “go without the care they need.” She said the decision by the state not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was “the final straw” that rendered the clinics unable to serve patients.
“This has been a long time coming,” she said.
But John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said he believes women in that region will still have access to health programs, noting the recent legislative move to restore funds to participants in the Women’s Health Program.
In the 2013 session, the Legislature voted to add $71 million to the program.
“The Legislature has more than restored the funding that was effective last session,” Seago said.
During the Senate debate over House Bill 2, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, asked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to form a committee that would study women’s health and family planning during the interim. Nelson said during a committee hearing on that bill that women in Texas need better access to preventative health care.
“We need to invest in preventative care and we need to invest in family planning,” Nelson said at the time.
Of the three clinics that will close — located in Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin — the Bryan facility had provided abortions in addition to family planning services, but the other two did not, Linton said. The Bryan facility housed both a Gulf Coast family planning center and an abortion service provided by Planned Parenthood Center for Choice.
Texas law requires that family planning corporations be independent from abortion providers. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast focuses on family planning and does not provide abortions, Linton said, listing Pap smears, pregnancy tests and sexually transmitted infection tests as some of the services the Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin centers provide.
Linton said she did not anticipate that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s other family planning clinics will close, adding that those facilities are in more urban areas.
“There are more women and men who are able to pay out of pocket for their health care,” she said.