AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has signed up more than enough doctors to treat the poor women who depended on Planned Parenthood for family planning services and check-ups, the commissioner said Monday.
Planned Parenthood's family planning programs for poor women was cut from the state program after Texas decided to eliminate funding to groups that support abortion rights starting Jan. 1. Commissioner Kyle Janek said Monday that his staff surveyed newly recruited doctors and clinics in the Texas Women's Health Program and found that they can pick up Planned Parenthood's caseload.
"This gives us great confidence that we can continue to provide women with family planning and preventive care and fully comply with state law," Janek said.
Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit arguing its exclusion is illegal under state law. A hearing to decide if the state must include Planned Parenthood until the case is resolved is scheduled for Jan. 11. Ken Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, rejected the survey's results.
"The simple fact is there is not the capacity for other providers to absorb the tens of thousands of our patients statewide who could be left in the cold if these ... rules are allowed to stand," he said.
Republican leaders in Texas decided last year to cut off all funding to groups that support abortion rights, even those that were providing services unrelated to abortion. Federal officials determined the exclusion violated federal law and cut off funding to the state, saying it was illegal to deny a woman the right to choose her own doctor.
Critics of the policy contended a doctor shortage would make it difficult for poor women to find treatment from non-Planned Parenthood facilities. Planned Parenthood clinics provided services to 48,000 poor women last year, almost half of the 110,000 women who took enrolled in the program.
In a statement, the commission said it surveyed providers who signed up for the new program and found they had the capacity to treat 147,513 women. These providers are in the impoverished parts of the state where Planned Parenthood was most active, the commission said, though women in the San Angelo area may have problems finding a doctor.
"We've worked hard to add new doctors and clinics to the program all across the state, and we'll work even harder in the two areas where we've identified some concerns," Janek said. "We're going to make sure that every woman who qualifies for these services is able to get them."
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