Rules governing the new Texas Women's Health Program will take effect, November 1st. Today, Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek released the guidelines.
There are some changes to the original rules that were being discussed. In its rules released today, the commission decided it would allow doctors to talk to their patients about abortion, as long as they are providing "neutral, factual information and nondirective counseling." They can provide patients with abortion providers information and phone numbers, as long as the doctors don't contact the provider directly.
The new rules also go further to define exactly what qualifies as an "abortion affiliate." The commission requires that a clinic maintain "physical and financial separation" from any abortion provider. They also must have a separate governing board and cannot share any funds.
The formation of the Texas Women's Health Program comes on the heels of the state's decision to cut 40-million dollars in federal funding to the Medicaid Women's Health Program and fund it on its own. At the heart of the issue is a state law banning tax payer money to any organization associated with an abortion provider.
By excluding those providers, the state lost federal funding; which paid for 90 percent of the Women's Health Program. The program is designed to provide health care screenings to low income women. The decision excluded several Planned Parenthood clinics, which did not provide abortions, on the basis that they are affiliated with clinics that do. They sued the state. That case is still pending. However, their funding is set to dry up on November 1.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Kenneth Lambrecht released this statement in response to the new "Affiliate Ban Rules":
“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first. The Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood have worked together to provide women with essential health services, including cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, for the past five years.
There is no sound reason Texas should jeopardize this important program by cutting off access to the health care provider relied on by nearly half of the women receiving preventive health services in the program. It is shocking that state officials would rather end low-income women’s access to family planning and preventive health services altogether than allow Planned Parenthood to provide these vital health services to women who choose to come to Planned Parenthood for care.
Planned Parenthood is exploring every option available to protect the health of the more than 100,000 women who rely on the Women’s Health Program. Our top priority is ensuring women in Texas have access to high quality, affordable health care. We wish politicians in Austin shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”
The complete rules and changes are below: