Texas Is Committed to Women's Health

February 4, 2016

Op-Ed Submission by Senator Jane Nelson

Here they go again. This week researchers funded by supporters of Planned Parenthood released a new misleading “study” of women’s health in Texas. The conclusion faults Texas for excluding the abortion provider and its affiliates from government-subsidized programs.

The report published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine is based on a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study funded in part by the Susan T. Buffet Foundation, a major supporter of Planned Parenthood. The study reviews claims in the Women’s Health Program and its successor, the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), from 2011 to 2014. That program served 114,441 women in 2014.

The study ignores two major women's health programs that provide family planning and other preventive health services to Texas women. It does not consider data from the Department of State Health Services’ Family Planning Program, which served 55,869 in 2014. It overlooks data from the Expanded Primary Health Care (EPHC) Program, which served 147,083 women in 2014. The EPHC omission is particularly egregious because this was the conduit for an infusion of $100 million in new funding for women's health approved by the Legislature in 2013.

Our three-legged stool of women's health programs -- which were spread across two agencies during this research -- can be confusing. That’s why this session the Legislature merged EPHC with TWHP and brought them together at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission under one umbrella with one access point -- HealthyTexasWomen.org. We also added $50 million to the women's health budget, expanded eligibility to serve more women, strengthened family planning, and enhanced efforts to educate women about the services available to them.

In addition, if one truly wants to understand how many women are receiving services in Texas, one also must examine the scores of women being served at Planned Parenthood through a steady pipeline of federal funds. One example: In 2013 the Obama Administration re-directed the major funding source for our family planning program -- federal Title X grants -- away from the State of Texas and directly into the hands of an association that includes Planned Parenthood.

The federal government's decision to re-direct these funds followed what the study described as Texas's decision to “abruptly” exclude Planned Parenthood. I would argue that this action was taken after careful study over many years. The Legislature created the Women's Health Program in 2005 under SB 747 with overwhelming bipartisan support, which included the exact same exclusion of abortion providers and affiliates.

Our legislative intent has always been in keeping with the will of Texans who do not want their tax dollars to support abortion, directly or indirectly. However, we did not begin enforcing that ban until more than seven years after the original bill was passed – after a focused effort to grow our provider network and a key Attorney General's Opinion stating the exclusion was on safe legal ground.

Planned Parenthood has a huge megaphone. They use it effectively to attack their opponents. They are trying to create a false choice as if a person who doesn't want tax dollars being funneled to the abortion industry is somehow anti-women's health. More concerning, biased studies like this one discourage women from seeking care.

Texans need to understand that funding for women's health in Texas is at an all-time high. The current state budget includes $285 million for women's health. We have a robust provider network, having tripled the number of providers in WHP since 2011. The Texas Legislature is making sure that women all over the state can access these services, and to suggest otherwise is unhelpful to our efforts to connect more women with the care they need.