AP NEWS

Heidi Group denied federal family planning funds

March 29, 2019

Federal health officials on Friday declined to award millions in family planning funds to an anti-abortion group and its embattled Texas affiliate, opting instead to extend its state contract with the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas.

The decision is a blow to the Heidi Group, which lost its Texas contracts last fall after two years of poor performance and more than $1 million in questioned expenditures. It is still being investigated by state health officials.

The Round Rock-based nonprofit had hoped to resurface by securing federal grants with two other Texas providers and the Obria Group, a Catholic organization that runs crisis pregnancy centers and is attempting to unseat Planned Parenthood as a national women’s health provider.

Opponents have worried for months that the Trump administration would steer funding in the program, called Title X, into the hands of religious groups like Obria, which does not support condoms or other forms of birth control. It was denied funding in the past for that reason.

Obria was awarded funding on Friday in California, where it’s based.

Its collaboration in Texas had planned to serve far fewer Texans than are currently served through Title X, but the group contended it can deliver better quality care and reach more women in rural, underserved parts of the state. It had asked for $24 million in funding over three years to serve 15,000 women annually.

Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services will continue its current operation in Texas, which is managed by the Austin-based Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas. The group’s providers serve about 195,000 patients across the state.

“Today is a good for Texas #TitleX providers and the clients they serve,” the group’s CEO, Kami Geoffray, tweeted.

The group used to contract with Planned Parenthood, but the two parted ways last year in anticipation of new restrictions for abortion affiliates announced last month by the Trump administration. Those restrictions, set to take effect in early May, are being challenged in court.

Planned Parenthood currently delivers the bulk of non-abortion family planning services to low-income women nationally, including birth control, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

It is threatening to withdraw from the program altogether unless the new rules are overturned.

jeremy.blackman@chron.com