Bitter debate over Planned Parenthood participation in health program

The Texas law banning abortion providers and their affiliates from getting taxpayer money passed in 2005, but was not fully enforced until this year.

The state Attorney General's Office ruled it does not conflict with federal law, but the federal government disagrees.

"Women's health is not a political game," said Julisa McCoy, a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.

She is one of 130,000 low-income women enrolled through Medicaid in the Texas Women's Health Program.

"My parents don TMt have health insurance, she said. So I can TMt seek these resources through their health insurance program. They don TMt have one."

The program covers medical services like pap smears, cervical and breast cancer screenings, as well as birth control.

According to the 2010 statistics from Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Hidalgo County had 6342 enrolled in the program, the fourth largest number in the state.

Cameron County had 2435 participants, and Starr County had 674 women enrolled.

But the program TMs future is uncertain.

"Because our law, that prevents taxpayer money from going to abortion affiliates, is in there does not fit in with President Obama's pro abortion agenda, that is why they are seeking to cut the program," Katherine Frazier said.

She is a spokesperson for the Office of Governor Rick Perry.

Under state law, Planned Parenthood and other groups affiliated to abortion providers will not be eligible to participate in the Women's Health Program.

The Obama administration announced last week it would cut funding to the program because the Texas is restricting women's access to health care, in violation of Medicaid rules.

"President Obama does not want to see Planned Parenthood cut out of this funding, when Planned Parenthood represents less than two percent of the providers of the program," Frazier refuted.

She added that even though the federal government will no longer provide funding, the program is important to Governor Perry.

The governor announced the state will continue the program and fund it, even if it means adding to the deficit.

"It sounds like the governor forgets what he's done in the past, said Patricio Gonzalez, the executive director for Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County. He's cut out women's health programs."

Gonzalez said last year, the legislature voted to cut nearly two thirds of the funding for women's health programs, including funding to groups like his.

"It TMs fiscally irresponsible to reject the federal government's $39 million payoff of this program, he blasted. Especially when the state is facing a budget that's in the red."

But Frazier said they will not violate state laws to appease the Obama administration.

The program is fully funded until March 31.

At that point, the state hopes to find the funding to step in, and any participants using Planned Parenthood will have to find another provider.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said there are over 2500 approved providers for the Women's Health Program, and that Planned Parenthood affiliates make up only a handful of that number.

Women who need help finding another provider can call 800-925-9526.