Anti-Choice Group to Receive $1.6 Million Health Grant

More taxpayer dollars for Carol Everett's the Heidi Group

Carol Everett
Carol Everett (photo via heidigroup.org)

During a hearing earlier this month that weighed the state health department’s proposed rule to bury or cremate fetal tissue (also known as: conservative politicians’ latest attack on abortion access), Carol Everett worried aloud of the threat of contracting STDs and HIV from an infected woman’s fetal remains through the sewer system.

“What if one day something horrible escaped into the sewer system?” she asked, eliciting laughter from pro-choice advocates in the room (see "Fetal Burial Saga Continues," Aug. 5). Everett reiterated her deeply unscientific and unfounded concern on an Austin Fox news affiliate.

Just days later, the state awarded Everett and her anti-choice organization, the Heidi Group, with some $1.65 million in public funding for health care services, as first reported by the Texas Observer. With money flowing to more than two dozen credible institutions like the Baylor College of Medicine and the Harris County Hospital District, Heidi Group – a Round Rock-based Christian nonprofit that advocates against abortion – stands to gain the second most sizable annual contract. (So far, no funding this cycle will reach the hands of an Austin health provider.)

The money comes out of $18 million distributed from the Healthy Texas Women program, the state’s rebranded version of the former Medicaid-based Women’s Health Program. In 2012, anti-choice politicians kicked Planned Parenthood, the program’s dominant provider, out of the program, leaving 50,000 low-income women to find a new health care provider. (It also lost out on 90% of its federal funding as the feds contend the rule broke federal law). By the state’s own calculations, the program now serves far fewer women.

With the blessing of former Gov. Rick Perry, crisis pregnancy centers jumped at the opportunity to replace the void left by Planned Parenthood. The largely religious-affiliated centers deter women from undergoing abortion and provide little to no medical services. But some CPCs have sought to slowly offer limited medical offerings, like well-woman exams, in an effort to be eligible for the state program (see “Consider ‘The Source’,” Sept. 28, 2012). Everett stood with Perry during a 2012 press conference, happily encouraging the inclusion of CPCs into the program, and today it appears she may be able to usher them in. During a phone interview with the Chronicle, Everett says at least two of the 25 providers receiving public funds through her nonprofit will be anti-choice CPCs in San Antonio and Decatur, Texas. Everett said the health department did not want her releasing the names of those centers but that they do provide well-woman exams and “comprehensive health care” – although what that entails remains unclear.

She says most of the medical providers she’ll dole out the funds to will be doctors and nurses who serve rural areas across 70 counties and asserts the funds will not go toward paying for administrative fees or rent at the Heidi Group. “My goal is to reach that little girl in a small county with no hope of having anybody explain her birth control options or have her blood pressure checked,” Everett told the Chronicle.

This wouldn’t be the first time Everett’s group has seen generous state funding: The Heidi Group has raked in thousands of taxpayer dollars over the years as part of the Alternatives to Abortion program, a pot of millions that subsidize CPCs in Texas. Everett has also helped distribute another stream of CPC funding generated by the Texas “Choose Life” license plate sales as an appointee of the attorney general. Additionally, she sits on the Health and Human Services Commission’s Women’s Health Advisory Committee, which advises the state agency on critical reproductive health issues.

So who is Carol Everett? A former abortion clinic worker (who wanted the abortion field to make her a “millionaire”) turned anti-abortion champion, Everett is a vocal figure in the anti-choice movement, penning a book on the subject titled, Blood Money: Getting Rich off a Woman’s Right to Choose. Everett has expressed her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape; believes in the non-medically backed “post-abortion stress syndrome”; and contends abortion is “sold” to children through comprehensive sex education.

She tells the Chronicle the Heidi Group has retooled its image and doesn’t tell women what to do. “We tell the truth about abortion. We tell her about adoption and parenting, we give all the options,” said Everett.

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, called the state contract “very inappropriate” considering the nonprofit has never performed the services required by the funding deal.

“This contract is especially troubling, given that the organization is run by a person who is so terribly misinformed about public health,” said Busby. “We should not be using precious state health care dollars on organizations that have no experience in providing legitimate medical services, especially crisis pregnancy centers that already receive millions in state funding to coerce, shame, and lie to Texans considering abortion care."

Progress Texas has requested the State Auditor’s Office investigate whether the grant was “improperly awarded” to a group that fails to provide health services and launched an online petition calling on HHSC to both revoke its contract with Heidi Group and fire Everett from her health advisory role. “Texas health officials have no business inserting anti-abortion activist Carol Everett and her anti-abortion group in between Texas women and their access to health care,” said advocacy director Lucy Stein in a statement. “HHSC needs to be held accountable for funding this fraud, and Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for this sham.”

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

abortion rights, the Heidi Group, Carol Everett}, Women’s Health Advisory Committee, Healthy Texas Women, Heather Busby, Lucy Stein

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