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New Law Forces End of Central Health's Abortion Services

Board says it can't risk jeopardizing its overall health care mission

By Jordan Smith, Fri., Aug. 19, 2011

Wayne Christian
Wayne Christian

Central Health's board voted Aug. 11 to end its funding for abortion services to low-income Travis County women. The move is in response to a provision passed by lawmakers during this summer's special session, which would withhold state money from any hospital district using its local tax revenue to provide elective abortion. The local program had been in existence since the 1970s, when it was run by the city; the goal was to provide poor women with the same access to care and number of choices available to women with resources. When Central Health was created, it took over the administration of the Medical Assistance Program, which in addition to abortion services provides women with access to counseling, family planning, and birth control. A bill targeting the Travis County program was filed during the regular session by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, but was unsuccessful; during the special session the provision was attached to Flower Mound GOP Sen. Jane Nelson's sweeping health care bill, Senate Bill 7.

Because of the deep budget cuts to health care services in Texas – including the state's family planning budget, which was cut by two-thirds – Central Health anticipates a rising number of people in need; that fact, balanced against the threat to funding contained in SB 7, prompted the board to discontinue abortion funding. "We still believe that providing pregnancy termination services is a valid part of the continuum of women's health services, but we can't risk taking action that would jeopardize our ability to fulfill our mission," said board Chair Thomas Coopwood in a press release. "We do believe that women who currently seek legal, safe pregnancy termination services will continue to be able to access those services here in Travis County."

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