This Is a Very Bleak Preview of Reproductive Health Access After the Gag Rule

By: Prachi Gupta, Jezebel, February 26, 2019

After Texas defunded Planned Parenthood in 2011, the state poured millions of dollars into a network of anti-abortion Christian pregnancy centers—a decision that could offer a glimpse of what’s to come in other states after the Trump administration announced a plan to block federal grant funding for reproductive health organizations that offer abortion services and counseling.

The Houston Chronicle reports that in 2016, the state of Texas awarded Christian pregnancy center the Heidi Group, founded by abortion opponent Carol Everett, nearly $40 million in family planning funds. In an email to a network of anti-abortion activists, Everett called it “the greatest possibility for expansion of pro-life care for the poor ever.” As the Chronicle notes, Everett, a well known anti-abortion activist, had neither clinical experience nor experience contracting with the state, and many of the pregnancy centers she cited did not even provide contraception.

In late 2018, after the group faced numerous criminal complaints alleging mismanagement of taxpayer funds, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission finally canceled its health contracts with the Heidi Group, saying in an email to the Texas Tribune that “it has become clear that the Heidi Group is unable to come into compliance.”

The Heidi Group’s rise in Texas, facilitated by anti-abortion legislators, illustrates challenges that other states are increasingly likely to face in light of the Trump administration’s new restrictions on the Title X Family Planning Program, the only federal grant program dedicated to offering family planning services in the country. Though Title X does not directly fund abortion services, the new guidelines prohibit health care providers from receiving Title X funding if they refer patients to abortion care.

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On September 26, 2017, Campaign for Accountability asked the Travis County District Attorney in Austin, Texas to investigate the Heidi Group, and its executive director, Carol Everett, for misappropriating funds and engaging in deceptive business practices. We also asked the IRS to investigate the group’s nonprofit tax status.