The impasse reached a new level of tension late in the week, after the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday that the Obama administration intends to withhold $35 million in federal funding from the Texas Women’s Health Program. The Medicaid-backed program provides birth control, annual exams and other services to an estimated 100,000 women across the Lone Star State.
The decision was in response to a move by the Texas legislature blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in the state program. However, the federal money represents 90 percent of the state program’s funding, and its continued viability is directly threatened by the administration’s cutoff.
“We are not going to let the program die,” Perry told Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer during an appearance Friday on “America’s Newsroom.” “We will find the money somewhere. It's just sad that you have an administration that is more interested in paying off and rewarding their political supporters and using this as a political issue.”
The group NARAL Pro-Choice America says seven states last year enacted laws restricting state funds from going to providers of abortion-related services. This year, the group says, seven more states have introduced these so-called "affiliation ban" measures.
The clash has worried women in Texas, including those who rely on Planned Parenthood – even for services that are not abortion-related – and those who use unrelated clinics that are affiliated with the now-endangered state program.
“I've been going there since I was 15 years old, for all my pap smears, all my screening, all my breast exams,” said Elizabeth Ayers, a married mother from Carrollton, referring to the Planned Parenthood facility in Dallas.
Pro-life activists say Texas women who have relied on Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services will have other options. “And this level of health care is enhanced to comprehensive and primary,” said Carol Everett of The Heidi Group. “It's not just limited to family planning.”
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney entered the fray earlier this week. In an interview with a local TV reporter in St. Louis on Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor, describing how he would trim the federal deficit, pledged to “get rid of” the Obama health care law and Planned Parenthood. Romney later sought to clarify his remarks, saying he was only referring to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Romney was stumping on Friday in Rosemont, Ill., but did not mention abortion. Still, the head of Planned Parenthood in the state and the House Democrat who represents Rosemont crashed the perimeter of the event to denounce Romney to reporters.
“Mitt Romney sought the support of Planned Parenthood when he ran for governor, when he ran in Massachusetts, in 2002,” noted Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “So I think he's trying to go the extra mile to show, no, he has really changed.”
Fox News affiliate reporters Rudy Koski and Richard Ray contributed to this report.