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Women's Health Program Stands, But Questions Remain

Photo of Women's Health Program website by KUT

The Women's Health Program — long believed to require legislative renewal — lives on, at least for now, in the form of a budget rider.

Jose Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, said the rider directs the Health and Human Services Commission to renew the program. But he said recent opinions by the Attorney General's Office would apply — which means that Planned Parenthood and other clinics "affiliated" with organizations that provide abortions would likely be forced out.

For family planning advocates, the move is a big step in the right direction. The rider doesn't include the "poison pill" included in previous measures that would blow up the entire Women's Health Program, which provides contraception and reproductive health screenings to tens of thousands of low income women, if a court determined Planned Parenthood could participate.  

But Camacho said there are lingering questions. For example, the Women's Health Program, which receives $9 in federal funds for every $1 the state puts up, requires a federal waiver, and it's unclear who has the authority to submit that waiver. 

Though speculation has swirled that the Women's Health Program was dead, Camacho said the budget rider has been in the works for weeks, and has been "a closely guarded piece of information." He said Sens. Bob Deuell, Leticia Van de Putte and Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden have been key to sticking the rider on — though now it has to stay there. 

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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