August 11, 2011
The Central Health Board of Managers voted to end funding for elective pregnancy termination services at the Board’s Thursday, Aug. 11 special called meeting. Central Health currently allocates approximately $450,000 to contracts with providers of these services for eligible residents of Travis County.
When Central Health began operations in 2004, it took over contracts for pregnancy termination services from the City of Austin. In 2010 when the contract terms were ending, the Board of Managers voted to continue funding these services, which are a small portion of the full compliment of comprehensive women’s health services funded by Central Health.
The Board’s decision to end funding follows adoption of Senate Bill 7, passed last month in a special session of the Texas Legislature, which states that any hospital district using public funds to finance pregnancy terminations (except in the case of a medical emergency) may not receive any state funding.
In weighing whether to continue funding pregnancy terminations in light of the challenges presented by SB 7 as well as the outstanding needs for community health care in Travis County, the Central Health Board concluded that continuing to fund pregnancy termination services would likely result in diversion of time and resources that Central Health would use to meet its primary mission of creating access to healthcare for those who need it most.
In addition to the challenges posed by Senate Bill 7, the continued volatility across the healthcare landscape including funding cuts at the state level has placed increased pressure on Central Health to provide services for an expanding population of individuals without access to care. Countering opposition to the continued funding of pregnancy termination services would likely consume a disproportionate share of time and resources, negatively affecting Central Health’s ability to address the healthcare service needs of the community, including filling the funding gaps recently created at the state level for women’s health services.
“Our focus has to be on the people who rely on us for healthcare services. We still believe that providing pregnancy termination services is a valid part of the continuum of women’s health services, but we can’t risk taking action that would jeopardize our ability to fulfill our mission. We do believe that women who currently seek legal, safe pregnancy termination services will continue to be able to access those services here in Travis County,” Central Health Board Chairperson Dr. Thomas Coopwood said.