Texas women's health program adds abortion opponent's group

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) " A revamped women's health program in Texas that ousted Planned Parenthood is giving a $1.6 million state contract to the nonprofit of an anti-abortion activist, who state officials said Wednesday submitted a "robust" proposal for helping low-income women in rural areas.

The Heidi Group's Carol Everett has been a visible abortion opponent at the Texas Legislature. She supported two major anti-abortion restrictions the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June, and last year, Republican lawmakers incensed by undercover video taken of Planned Parenthood operations and staffers invited her to discuss abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood criticized the selection of Everett and accused Texas health officials of bypassing proven providers to funnel "hard-earned tax dollars in support of their anti-abortion agenda," said Sarah Wheat, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

The contract is the second-largest state health officials have given so far under its new Healthy Texas Women program; $1.7 million was given to Houston's Harris County.

Everett said her state contract " a first for the Heidi Group " begins in September and is about filling gaps, not about ideology. She said her services will connect women in more than 40 rural counties with providers.

"I did not see quality health care offered to women in rural areas," Everett said.

The Healthy Texas Women program, unveiled last month, absorbs an old program that ousted Planned Parenthood in 2011 at the behest of lawmakers.

Texas began paying for its own women's health initiatives after the federal government said excluding Planned Parenthood " an approved provider " was against the law and halted federal funding for women's care statewide. The push to defund Planned Parenthood was part of a larger, yearslong anti-abortion effort by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Texas Health and Human Services spokesman Bryan Black said the proposal by the Heidi Group "was one of the most robust of any of those who applied for the grants."

Everett's biography on the Heidi Group website says her nonprofit, which is based near Austin, had offered "practical and scriptural solutions" for unplanned pregnancies.

State health officials have said the new program will have roughly three times as many providers as five years ago. It offers contraception, pregnancy testing and counseling, immunizations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Those under 18 will need a parent's permission to qualify.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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