Perry vows to continue Women's Health Program without federal help


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GIBSON

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 8 at 7:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Many have accused Texas Governor Rick Perry of declaring "war" on women's health by cutting Planned Parenthood out of the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program, with hundreds gathering at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to protest the move.

The Obama administration has already warned Texas that by barring Planned Parenthood from participating, it could lose the 90 percent of the program's funding currently provided by the federal government.

It's a move that could threaten to shut down the program that provides breast cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings, as well as reproductive services to some 130,000 Texas women.

Governor Perry attempted to brush those fears aside in a brief talk with media gathered Thursday at the Republican Party of Texas' Austin headquarters.

"What I'm going to tell you is this program is not going away," said Perry. "Those people that are out there trying to say, 'Oh they're going to kill this program,' are just dead wrong. We're not going to kill the program."

Perry argued that Medicaid funds should be spent according to the laws of the state, and that Washington has no business ordering Texas which providers should be included in the program.

"This is our money whether it comes from the federal government or where it comes from," said Perry.

The governor said the state will continue funding the program, but stopped short of saying precisely where the extra $35 million it would take to make up the difference will come from.

"We've got a multi-billion dollar budget, so we have the ability to be flexible in where monies come from," said Perry. "So when that decision is finally made, and we make it public, then you'll see precisely where it comes from."

Democratic Party of Texas spokesperson Rebecca Acuña wrote in a statement:

“Perry’s hiding under a rock. He got his ego bruised and now he’s looking for cover. It’s despicable that Perry continues to endanger the well-being of Texas women just to prolong his fight with the federal government.  We shouldn’t have to choose between funding one population over another when the feds are willing to shoulder most of the costs for the WHP. Instead of diverting resources from already strained state services Perry should own up to his mistake.”

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released a statement Thursday as well:

"I am encouraged by the Governor's commitment to fund basic women's preventive health services.  I still believe that a waiver provides the most cost-effective opportunity to do so, and I hope that the federal government will work with Texas to continue the Women's Health Program in compliance with both state and federal law.  But Texas can't afford to let these critical services disappear.  At a time when we are striving to improve public health and control costs in Medicaid, funding services that save lives and save money should be a priority."

The federal government is expected to make an announcement concerning funding within the next few days.