AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott said Jan. 22 that a Trump administration decision reestablishes the federal partnership for the Women's Health Program in Texas.
Abbott issued a statement concerning the approval of the 1115 Waiver for Healthy Texas Women:
"The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life. This collaboration is a symbol of our commitment to championing the lives of Texas women. I am grateful to President Trump and his administration for approving this waiver and for his commitment to protecting the unborn while providing much-needed health resources to Texas women."
According to the governor’s office, “Healthy Texas Women offers family planning and women’s health services to Texas women who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty limit. In 2018, HTW served approximately 173,000 Texans. While this program is currently funded with state general revenue, Texas submitted a Medicaid 1115 waiver application after President Trump took office, requesting federal matching funds for the program. The waiver had previously not been renewed under the Obama administration because Texas refused to fund abortion providers or their affiliates.”
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people, had a different view. The organization posted a news release saying the Trump administration “rewarded Texas’s long-standing effort to cut off people’s access to health care. The administration approved Texas’ request to implement a Medicaid family planning program that bars patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood and other sexual and reproductive health care providers that also provide abortion. This is the first time the federal government has allowed a state to explicitly waive Medicaid’s free choice of provider for family planning provision. This move upends longstanding federal law and sets a dangerous precedent for other states to pursue similar state-level measures, with grim consequences for health care access nationwide.”
Data from the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities estimates that nearly 45,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screening and other services through the Healthy Texas Women program — a nearly 40 percent drop — than when Planned Parenthood participated in the program.
Jobless rate stays low
The Texas Workforce Commission on Jan. 24 reported that the seasonally adjusted Texas unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in December, up one 10th of a percentage point from 3.4 percent in November 2019.
Although the rate of unemployment increased slightly, Texas did add 29,800 jobs over the month. TWC Chairman and Commissioner Representing the Public Bryan Daniel said, “Our current economic climate creates opportunities for our skilled workforce and success for employers. We look forward to continued growth in our great state throughout 2020.”
Regionally, the Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs in December with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA at 2.3 and Austin-Round Rock with the third-lowest rate at 2.4 percent.
Paxton joins in brief
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Jan. 22 announced his joining 17 other states in a friend-of-the-court brief that argues for protecting fetuses with Down Syndrome from abortion based on genetics.
The brief, filed with the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, seeks to reverse an Ohio federal district court ruling that "created a categorical right to abortion, regardless of whether the reason for an abortion is clearly based on discrimination against a child with disabilities," Paxton said in a news release.
Registration is urged
Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, the state's chief election officer, on Jan. 23 reminded Texans to make necessary preparations to vote in the upcoming March 3 party primaries.
Feb. 3 is the registration deadline.
“Being prepared is essential for Texans seeking to make their voices heard," said Hughs. "In addition to registering to vote, Texans should set aside time to ensure that they have made the necessary preparations to cast their ballot. Together, we will ensure that all eligible Texans are able to take part in shaping the direction of the Lone Star State."
As of this month, according to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, there were 16,106,984 registered voters — a new state record.
Information on how to register to vote and the voting process, such as what forms of identification may be presented when voting, is available at votetexas.gov or 1-800-252-VOTE.
Safety training is held
The City of Austin, Travis County and Joint Task Force Civil Support from the U.S. Department of Defense conducted response training in Austin last week for a fictional nuclear incident.
As many as 1,000 Department of Defense personnel, 50 City of Austin and 10 Travis County staff participated in the training.
Juan Ortiz, director for the City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said, “We want to build the relationship with the armed forces to ensure we are prepared to respond and work together as efficiently as possible in the event of a disaster.”
Events related to the exercise in Austin were conducted in Killeen and Fort Hood last week and continued into the current week.