Texas defies Obama administration, bars abortion providers from Medicaid

Texas on Thursday passed regulations barring Planned Parenthood clinics and other "affiliates of abortion providers" from participating in the state's Medicaid program starting March 14, the Texas Tribune is reporting.

The Obama administration has told Texas that its plans violate federal law.

If the two parties can't reach agreement, the newspaper reports, the state's Women's Health Program could be dismantled, leaving 130,000 low-income women without access to birth control, cancer screenings and other preventive benefits.

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"Under federal law, states administer Medicaid and have the right to set the criteria for providers in the program. That is what Texas is doing," Texas Health and Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told the Tribune. "We have a state law that our Attorney General says is constitutional, and it clearly bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women's Health Program. We can't violate a perfectly valid state law just to appease Washington. We hope [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] will reverse its position and allow the program to continue."

The regulations come as conservatives in Congress and throughout the states push to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. Federal dollars can't cover abortion directly, but critics argue money is fungible and taxpayer support for cancer screenings and other preventive services frees up money that Planned Parenthood can then use to perform more abortions.

Planned Parenthood slammed Texas' decision in a statement Thursday.

"Even as more than one quarter of Texas women are uninsured, and women in Texas have the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country, Governor (Rick) Perry is determined to make a bad situation worse for women in the state of Texas," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Texas would rather throw health care for hundreds of thousands of women overboard than allow Planned Parenthood to provide health care like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and STD prevention through the public health programs."