Abbott Requests Federal Medicaid Exemption For Texas Healthy Women Program

Jan 24, 2018

Gov. Greg Abbott appealed to the Trump administration Tuesday for federal money to help fund the state’s Healthy Texas Women’s program. The Obama administration in 2013 withheld the money when the state blocked abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood from those funds.


Abbott’s office submitted what’s known as a federal 1115 waiver, which, if approved, would allow the state — through a 90-10 matching grant — to receive and re-distribute federal Medicaid dollars to facilities that do not provide abortion services.

The Healthy Texas Women program was created in 2013 as a way for the governor’s office to fund obstetric and gynecological clinics that did not provide abortion care, like the Institute for Women’s Health in San Antonio, which provide OB-GYN exams and screenings.

The program's chief operations officer Susan Griffith said the program allows low-income women to not only afford these services but also have follow-up care.

“You know the lower income population won’t seek health care because they cannot afford it,” Griffith said.  “... With women, this can lead to lots of issues, including prenatal problems. … So with this program, we are able to offer those services and make sure they are staying on top of their health needs”.

The Trump administration decided that the “freedom of choice” provision under Medicaid would not be permitted, allowing states like Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood and other facilities providing abortion services from receiving federal Medicaid funding.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a national organization that advocates for women’s access to abortion services, estimates that Texas serves 44,000 fewer women since Planned Parenthood was excluded from the program.

Yvonne Gutierrez, the executive director for the advocacy group Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said the change had negative health consequences for Texas women.

“We have seen what has happened in Texas when you are banning Planned Parenthood from being able to provide care: Women are losing access to care,” Gutierrez said.

But Joe Pojman, executive director for the Texas Alliance for Life, said the state’s taxpayers should not be forced to fund facilities that perform abortions.

“We don’t think that they should be funded through tens of millions of our tax dollars, and they should not be the ambassadors of that program and promote abortion to low-income women,” Pojman said.

Abortion rights advocates believe if the Trump administration approves the governor’s request, it will likely result in a federal lawsuit.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe