Note to Texas HHS: Wearing Pink for Women’s Health Isn’t Nearly Enoughby
The anti-abortion ideologues who run the Texas Health and Human Services Commission want Texans to wear pink for women’s health on Tuesday. But that kind of chutzpah should have a lot of Texas women seeing red.
“Texas leaders have joined forces to encourage all Texans to wear pink Tuesday, May 14, in support of Texas women during National Women’s Health Week,” starts an HHS press release from Thursday (May 9). The release goes on to urge “all Texans to celebrate women, highlight women’s health programs and continue the conversation about improving women’s health across the board.”
Look: the Texas Freedom Network strongly supports women’s health. That’s a big reason we call out the lies politicians keep telling to pass law after law limiting access to women’s reproductive health care services, including abortion. But it’s hard to take current HHS leadership seriously when they talk about women’s health.
The HHS press release includes a list of agency-administered programs dedicated to women’s health. That list includes the Healthy Texas Women’s Program and the Family Planning Program.
But less than a year ago, HHS finally ended multi-million-dollar contracts with the anti-abortion Heidi Group to provide services through those two very programs. In cancelling the contracts, HHS acknowledged that Heidi Group had failed for years to serve more than a fraction of the thousands of women the group had promised to help. In fact, Heidi Group had promised to facilitate services to nearly 70,000 women in fiscal year 2017 alone yet served less than 5 percent of that number.
Heidi Group’s founder, Carol Everett, had essentially admitted to the Governor’s Office that her organization was incompetent: “No, we don’t look good, and no, we’re not doing what I planned to do, and no, we’re not doing what I wanted.”
Yet while TFN and our partners kept raising the alarm about Heidi Group’s incompetence and failure, HHS continued to issue contracts and direct millions of dollars to the group until last fall. Why? It’s hard not to think the reason is that Everett is a prominent anti-abortion activist with key ties to the state’s anti-abortion Republican leaders and funders.
Keep in mind that the state initiated the Family Planning Program and Healthy Texas Women after lawmakers made the strictly political decision to eliminate state funding for non-abortion health care services for women provided by Planned Parenthood. Eliminating funding for those Planned Parenthood services led to a significant decrease in access to state health programs for low-income Texans. Then HHS compounded the problem by directing millions of taxpayer dollars to the incompetent Heidi Group, which had a lot of experience advocating against abortion but little to no experience providing real health care services.
Now HHS wants everyone to wear pink to show their support for women’s health. Well, yes, let’s all wear pink. But we would prefer having state HHS officials (and the elected officials who appoint them) who actually seem to care more about promoting women’s health than anti-abortion politics.