Eighty Texas senators and representatives sent a letter to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) this week, clarifying their legislative intent after increasing funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program. The letter was spearheaded by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), and Representative Greg Bonnen, M.D., (R-Friendswood). The letter stated that HHSC should use the additional funding in the program to grow the capacity and not dilute the focus or purpose of the program in the upcoming biennium.
The letter signed by Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 18 state senators, and 62 state representatives explains “These services support Texas families while they establish a stable social and economic foundation for themselves and their children.” The letter later states “The Legislature would not have made the increase in appropriations had we not believed the program was already extremely successful.”
Just before the legislative session concluded at the end of May, legislators passed the two-year state budget for 2020-2021. The budget included an increase of funding for the Pro-Life Alternatives to Abortion program, which provides social services for expecting and new parents throughout Texas. The budget for the rapidly growing program was increased from $38.3 million in the previous budget to $79.8 million in the upcoming budget. This funding increase was desperately needed as demand for these life-affirming services has skyrocketed, current providers are at capacity, and over 25 provider locations are ready to join the program once additional funding is authorized.
Since beginning in 2005, the program has grown into a robust network of pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes, and other social service providers. The program equips both biological and adoptive parents for parental success by providing services like counseling, parenting and life skills education, job placement support, locating housing for pregnant women, and other material assistance.
While the previous budget included a funding increase, dispensing the additional funds was entirely at the discretion of HHSC. This session, legislators worried that language did not provide enough clear direction to HHSC since the agency sought to erode the scope of the program, introduce tangential goals, and weaken the impact of the already successful program. The attempt to broaden the program’s goals and seek new contractors also delayed implementation of the new funds, crippling growth of the program for several months after the start of the budget until contracts were finally approved.
The letter to HHSC from the 80 legislators points out, “Despite the delays, the program significantly expanded clients served during those (shortened) bienniums, and we believe that under the current existing program framework, the program will once again fully utilize all of the appropriated dollars to serve even more clients statewide.“ These representatives and senators clearly believe the program should continue to remain strong and focused, as well as ensure the increased funding begins without delay. While HHSC does maintain some funding discretion under the new budget, the letter reminds the agency that the current purpose, scope, and contractors for the program should be supported so that additional providers may administer the proven services that make the program successful. The letter concludes: “Agency policy, our state budget, and our Legislature should reflect the strong Pro-Life beliefs of Texans, and Texas’s well-established commitment to women having access to options reflecting that all Life has value.”
The majority of Texans are Pro-Life, and Texas legislators listened to those calling for funding of this Pro-Life program. The need for services provided by the Alternatives to Abortion program has continued to grow. Texas Right to Life is grateful to the Pro-Life legislators who signed the letter urging HHSC to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to the new budget as Texas continues to serve and support Texas women and their preborn children.
Read the letter text and view the legislators who signed the letter here: https://texasrighttolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Sen-Perry-A2A-2019.pdf