Religious leaders from Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Jewish faiths are calling on state leaders to increase funding for women’s health programs. Clergy members held a news conference at the Capitol today to highlight a statement signed by more than 370 religious leaders from various faiths.
"We are voices of faith that minister to people of all levels of economic ability in our state and we’ve seen these cuts especially affect women in poverty in Texas," said Larry Bethune, pastor of the University Baptist Church in Austin. Bethune sits on the board of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that says it exists to counter the "religious right."
In 2011, the Texas legislature cut funding for women's health programs and adopted a rule that banned organizations affiliated with abortion providers -- mainly Planned Parenthood -- from receiving money through the Texas Medicaid Women's Health Program, which provided health care for more than 120,000 low income women in Texas.
The federal government, in response, pulled Medicaid funding for the program, saying the state did not have the authority to determine the eligibility of providers. Texas then set up its own state-run, state-funded program.
Last week, the state’s Senate Finance Committee agreed to increase women's health funding by $100 million. But it would funnel the money through primary care doctors, rather than clinics that specialize in women’s health.