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Women's health providers say Trump-backed measure won't affect Texas — yet

Women's health organizations in Texas say a President Trump-signed measure targeting abortion providers will not have an affect here — yet. But it could in the coming years.

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*Correction appended

Women's health organizations in Texas say a President Trump-signed measure targeting abortion providers will not have an affect here — yet. 

The measure Trump signed allows states to exclude Planned Parenthood and other women's health organizations that provide abortions at some of their clinics from receiving "Title X" money, federal money that funds family planning services such as contraceptive counseling, pregnancy tests and STD testing. Already, no state or federal funds may be used to cover the cost of abortion, and no funds in Texas go to clinics that provide abortions. 

The measure reverses a rule made in the final months of the Obama administration that aimed to protect such providers from conservative, anti-abortion state legislatures seeking to defund them. 

Right now, the state of Texas doesn't even distribute those federal dollars; a separate entity, the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, is responsible for spreading a $14 million pot of money across 28 providers and 100 clinics statewide. 

In the future, the state might. The next application cycle for federal Title X money begins in 2018.  

Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion Texas Alliance for Life, said he was “overjoyed” about the new Title X rule and that Planned Parenthood and other providers that offer abortions in any capacity should not be allowed to receive any federal or state dollars for other types of services.

But Kami Geoffray, CEO of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, said allowing the state to muscle out abortion providers for future Title X money could be harmful to low-income patients served by the money. The Texas Legislature already cut tens of millions of dollars in state family planning funding during the 2011 session, she said; under the new rule, some clinics could potentially lose federal dollars, too.  

“We saw people lose care, not connect to another provider and essentially we saw an increase in unplanned pregnancy and Medicaid births,” Geoffray said of the last big round of cuts. “When you lose those specialty care providers, clients may find another provider or they may not ... We’ve seen this narrative play out already in our state, and that’s what we could see again.”

Reproductive rights advocates have feared that the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle could mean more stringent anti-abortion laws and funding cuts. In Texas and other conservative states, that fear is pronounced, with Republicans controlling all levels of government. 

Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said she thinks Trump and Congress are having “a beating of the chest moment” after failing to repeal Obama's signature federal health law. She said it’s still unclear what impact the new federal rule will have for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and Planned Parenthood of San Antonio are the only two affiliates of the organization that currently receive Title X funding. They serve 26,000 people with that money.

“Congress is acting extremely recklessly with women’s health, so the future of Title X is unknown,” Gutierrez said. “Until we know what’s next to come with the program, we will not know what the impact will be of no longer having this protection.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • An amendment to ban abortion providers from receiving any funds from the state budget passed in the House, but it's unclear how effective it would be in fully defunding groups like Planned Parenthood.
  • Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and around the country are vying for funding and survival now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, the White House and many state legislatures.
  • Showing multiple clips from a video released in 2015 by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, state attorneys and witnesses said the footage was grounds for dismissing Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.
  • Following a directive from the Legislature, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Wednesday that it would combine two of the state's main women’s health programs to create the “Healthy Texas Women” program on July 1.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Correction: A previous version of this story suggested women's health providers in Texas were likely to be affected by a federal measure President Trump signed. They would only be affected by the measure if future federal Title X funding gets funneled through a state agency. 

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