Anti-Choice Grifter’s Mischief Costs Texas Taxpayers $1.6M

State asks for its money back after Round Rock-based anti-abortion group fritters away women’s health funds

Carol Everett
Carol Everett

Texas' woefully terrible decision to grant its precious women's health funds to an unqualified anti-abortion ideologue continues to cost taxpayers big money. Now, Carol Everett and her Round Rock-based organization the Heidi Group have been asked to repay the state a whopping $1.6 million (which it likely does not have) for numerous "serious" violations, including overpaying its employees; making charges outside the scope of its grants (including for gift cards, clothing, appliances, and retail membership fees); failing to have sufficient (if any) documentation of the work of its subcontractors; and other absences of accountability and oversight. A strongly critical report, released by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's Office of the Inspector Gen­eral last week, follows an investigation initiated in 2018, but may not be the last word: The "severity" of the recent findings warrants an "expanded" investigation, the OIG writes.

How did we get here? After finally achieving its longtime ideological goal of kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid-based women's health program in 2012, the state came up with a replacement program for low-income patients, dubbed Healthy Texas Women. Beginning in 2016, the HHSC awarded contracts ultimately worth more than $6 million to Everett – an activist and author with zero experience in actual women's health care – to build out a network of providers that, Everett promised, would serve 69,000 women.

Needless to say, it didn't go well. Everett bungled the job, serving a fraction of that number despite lavish spending and sketchy record-keeping, leading the state to eventually claw back its funds to give to more functional providers. (Everett notably admitted the obvious at the time: "It's not as easy as it looks because we are not Planned Parenthood.")

Ignoring this glaring lack of competence, the HHSC quietly re-upped the Heidi Group's funding for another biennium; it wasn't until October 2018 that the state finally cut off Everett for good, citing "substantial deficiencies" in her group's performance. As this shiftless con artist sticks taxpayers with the bill for her past nonsense, she has already moved on to her next scam, applying (unsuccessfully) for Title X federal family planning funds meant to help low-income women. After her well-deserved rejection, Everett and her associates, now rebranded as Vita Nuova, sued the federal government, arguing that anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups with "sincere religious beliefs" deserve Title X money regardless of their competence. The suit follows the Trump administration's move to bar clinics that refer patients to abortion care from receiving Title X funding.

"We demand the Heidi Group return ill-gotten state funds and we call on the state to make sure extremists with no qualifications don't influence, administer, or grift from state programs designed to provide health care to Texans," said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Aimee Arram­bide. "The Heidi Group is a case study for any state attempting to play politics with the care of its citizens – it doesn't work."

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

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

reproductive rights, The Heidi Group, Carol Everett, anti-abortion, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice, Healthy Texas Women, Vita Nuova, Aimee Arrambide

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