March 16, 2012
Texas Medicaid Funding Cut Over State’s Planned Parenthood Exclusion
The decision comes as states mull ultrasound laws.
The federal government announced this week that it will phase out federal support for the Medicaid Women's Health Program (WHP) in Texas, responding to the state’s decision to exclude from the program Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion providers. The WHP provides family planning, health screenings, and birth control to about 130,000 low-income women who are enrolled in WHP in Texas. About half of Texas enrollees would not be able to use their current health providers under the new Texas rules.
Cindy Mann, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters that the federal government did not have a choice. "Medicaid law is clear," Mann said. "Patients, not state government officials, are able to choose the doctor and health care providers that are best for them and their family."
The WHP decision comes on the heels of a January decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift an injunction against a mandatory sonogram law in Texas. The Court ruled that a state law requiring a sonogram could go into effect while a lawsuit was considered in the district court. The law has received particular scrutiny because the requirement of an ultrasound would mean that women with early pregnancies would need a vaginal probe to conduct the ultrasound.
The cartoon Doonesbury has made the state's recently enacted law the focus of this week’s storyline. Artist Garry Trudeau traces a woman's experiences attempting to receive an abortion in Texas. Some newspapers have refused to run the cartoons because they equate the sonograms with rape.
Trudeau told the Guardian that he considered the term “rape” to be an accurate description of the compulsory procedure.
Catherine Frazier, a spokesman for Governor Rick Perry, said, “The decision to end a life is not funny. There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending decision.”
The Texas ultrasound law was the model for a Virginia law enacted March 7, requiring a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. The statute states that the purpose of the ultrasound is to determine the gestational age of the fetus, and an image of the fetus must be kept in the woman's medical records. Women are not required to view the ultrasound, but they must be given the opportunity to see the ultrasound, hear the heartbeat and wait 24 hours before having the abortion (two hours if she lives further than 100 miles away). The state will also make available a list of providers that provide free ultrasounds, many of which are pro-life pregnancy centers.
An earlier version of the Virginia law became controversial because it would have essentially required many women to have a transvaginal ultrasound. The law was changed so that it requires only a “transabdominal ultrasound.”
Virginia and Texas are just two of many states that have enacted new abortion restrictions. In Utah, the state legislature approved a 72 hour waiting period for abortions last week. If signed into law, Utah would be the longest in the nation. South Dakota approved a 72-hour waiting period last year, but the law is currently blocked while the law is being reviewed as part of a federal lawsuit.