Clinics Fear for Future as Women's Health Funds Were Cut

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - The Planned Parenthood in Odessa has been closed, it's services merged with the Planned Parenthood in Midland.

They tell NewsWest 9 now they're being rushed with Odessa patients as well as Midlanders.

But now a Texas health program that helped them pay for the care of many low-income women is cut due to lack of funding and they believe it's for political reasons.

So where do they go from here?

Planned Parenthood in Midland received an extension for the Medicaid fund called the Texas Women's Health Program through April 30th, which helps provide basic health care for 130,000 low-income women throughout the state, but after that, it's gone and the clinic fears for those patients.

"The Women's Health Care Program allowed for women to have their annual exams, birth control, STD testing, free of charge. That won't be available anymore at any of our sites," Karen Hildebrand, President of Planned Parenthood of West Texas, said.

The program had 90% federal funding.

A state law now bars clinics that are affiliated with abortions to receive that money, a killing blow to the program at Planned Parenthood.

After April 30th, they'll have to start charging for those services in order to keep their doors open.

"Patients will pay according to their income or number of people in their family, so it'll be on a sliding scale. So, for people with lower incomes, they pay less," Hildebrand said.

Low-income women can bring their pay stubs to find out how much the clinic will charge.

Planned Parenthood believes this cut is targeting them politically.

Local Republicans said they are pro-life and they believe centers that promote abstinence and sexual health without also providing abortions, like The Life Center in Midland, deserve more support.

"These young women need a full round of education and they need to know about these children that they are carrying," Rhonda Lacy, President of the Midland County Republican Women, said. "It's just important to raise all of those issues as well."

"I'm all for protecting life. I'm pro-life," visiting candidate for Texas Senate, Craig James, said. "I'm also for taking care of women and their health so there's a balance somewhere in there, personal responsibility, and if they have a need for things, that they need to be able to take care of it themselves. If they can't, then there needs to be a service to help them take care of their health issues."

As far as providing those basic health services in clinics that don't provide abortions, Governor Rick Perry has claimed Texas will find a way to fund the program on its own.

Planned Parenthood doubts that with last year's budget deficit.

"It's done for political reasons, not good medical reasons and it eliminates a safety net for women in our state," Hildebrand said.

Planned Parenthood in Midland told NewsWest 9 nothing more can be done between now and April 30th to stop the cut.

They already tried making their voices heard through their rallies last week.

They said it's unfortunate that their low-income patients will now have to be charged for basic services that they used to get for free but they hope that it serves as a wake-up call to Texas women.