Houston Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar is calling on the State Auditor’s Office to review a $1.6 million state grant awarded to a group she says funnels money to an unlicensed medical provider with an anti-abortion agenda.
Houston Chronicle reporter Andrea Zelinsky says the issue goes back to the 2011 state budget cuts for women’s health programs. The legislature cut $36 million out of the budget, two-thirds of the overall budget for these programs.
“You have this focus on women’s health that previously was funding Planned Parenthood and other organizations – that among their services included abortion care – that were handicapped or cut off at the legs,” Zelinsky says. “Fast forward … you have a now need to fill that the legislature is willing to fill.”
The grant – under the Healthy Texas Women program run by the Department of Health and Human Services – is in part trying to make up for the budget cuts.
“And this grant now goes to an organization that has a different philosophical bent than Planned Parenthood,” Zelinsky says, “being run by a woman who is very vocal in identifying with an anti-abortion crowd.”
The Heidi Group received the state’s second-largest grant, after the $1.7 million granted to the Harris County public health department. Farrar told Zelinsky that “biased ideology” can’t drive health care.
“This type of ideology, based on this type of granting of an award, is detrimental to the healthcare of women in this state,” Farrar said.
Yet Zelinsky says there’s nothing uncouth about the grant award – and there’s no reason to think that right now.
“There’s these grants that are available for organizations to use to provide healthcare and to provide services to women in need,” she says. “It just happens to be that this organization is affiliated with an anti-abortion advocate – which is just raising some red flags among folks like Rep. Farrar.”
The larger issue, Zelinsky says, is whether the Heidi Group was licensed and can provide comprehensive healthcare to women. Among other questions are: What is this grant really for? How did the group not only qualify for, but win, the second-largest grant?
“There are reports to indicate that they aren’t licensed according to the provider,” she says. “They’re affiliated with more than 20 different providers across the state that can provide care.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.