Plan bans funds for abortion providers

Budget measure would cut off clinics, Planned Parenthood

Gary Susswein

Publication Date: May 23, 2003  Page: B6  Section: Metro/State  Edition: Final

Doctors and clinics that perform abortions will be barred from receiving state contracts or money under a measure approved as part of the state budget late Thursday.

Currently, Planned Parenthood and other providers that pay for abortions with nontax dollars receive state money to provide Pap smears, well-woman exams, counseling and mammograms, mostly for low-income patients.

"The purpose of the rider is to ensure that appropriated funds are not used to subsidize abortions," said Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who sponsored the rider to the state's proposed $117 billion budget.

The 10-member conference committee that is finalizing the budget approved the proposal 6-4 on a party-line vote.

The measure effectively would strip $13 million in funding from five of Planned Parenthood's 12 regional chapters, including its Central Texas affiliate. Slightly more than 2 percent of the medical visits to those clinics are for abortions, and about 110,000 Texans a year receive nonabortion health care and services there.

The Republican lawmakers said medical clinics that don't perform abortions exist in every region of the state and could take over the state contracts. Or the existing contractors could just stop offering abortions, they said.

But the Democrats said that those clinics are the only places to go for medical services in many smaller towns and that forcing women to travel to other towns for preventive care is unfair.

"It's going to create more harm than good," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

gsusswein@statesman.com; 445-3654