Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
A group led by an anti-abortion advocate appears to be one of the largest recipients of state funding from the “Healthy Texas Women” program, which lawmakers recently created to help women find health care services paid for by the state.
The Heidi Group, a Round Rock-based center that has promoted alternatives to abortion to low-income women, is set to receive $1.6 million from the women’s health program, according to the comptroller’s office. That makes it the second-highest grant recipient on the current list, behind the Harris County public health department, which will receive $1.7 million.
Phone calls to the Heidi Group’s office in Round Rock were not immediately returned. The organization, which is led by abortion opponent Carol Everett, has previously described its mission as “promoting life affirming hope and dignity to girls, women, and their families seeking self-sufficiency.”
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A spokesman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which administers the women’s health program, said the Heidi Group had “changed its focus.” The comptroller’s office lists the $1.6 million grant as being awarded to a San Antonio-based operation of the group, doing business under the name “Wellness Coalition.”
The Heidi Group “will now be providing women's health and family planning services required by Healthy Texas Women, including birth control, STI screening and treatment, plus cancer screenings to women across Texas,” state agency spokesman Bryan Black said in an email.
Black said the group had already recruited doctors to begin establishing family planning clinics across the state. He also said the women’s health program’s contracts were not final and that there were “more to come.” The program offers $18 million each year.
Abortion-rights supporters lambasted the Heidi Group's contract.
"It’s very inappropriate that the state would contract with an organization that has never performed the services required by the contract," said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, in a statement. "The Heidi Group is an anti-abortion organization; it is not a healthcare provider."
The Healthy Texas Women program is the product of a reconfiguration of the state's women's health services, ordered by state lawmakers in 2015. That came four years after the Republican-led Legislature made sharp cuts to the state’s family planning budget and ousted Planned Parenthood from the joint state-federal Medicaid Women’s Health Program.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.