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Obama cut women’s health money in Texas for the state’s targeting of Planned Parenthood. Trump just restored it.

From left, Gov. Greg Abbott reacts as President Donald Trump speaks at a church relief center during a visit with flood survivors and volunteers of Hurricane Harvey in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
From left, Gov. Greg Abbott reacts as President Donald Trump speaks at a church relief center during a visit with flood survivors and volunteers of Hurricane Harvey in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The federal government is restoring funding for Texas’ publicly funded women’s health programs, bringing as much as $350 million into state coffers and sending a clear message to conservative states: It’s OK to defund providers affiliated with abortion.

The Wednesday announcement from the Trump administration reverses an Obama-era decision in 2012 to cut federal women’s health funding to Texas. That came as punishment after the Texas Legislature in 2011 excluded Planned Parenthood from the Healthy Texas Women program because of the organization’s affiliation with abortion providers, though the women’s health program does not fund abortion.

"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," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Wednesday statement.

The decision was long-awaited; Texas first asked the federal government — perceived under Trump as more sympathetic to Texas’ anti-abortion crusade — to help pay for its women’s health programs in 2017.

Healthy Texas Women offers family planning and health services such as pregnancy and STD testing to low- and middle-income women. In 2018, it served approximately 173,000 people, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. State officials said the restored federal funding, approved through 2024, would allow the program to reach more than 200,000 clients per year.

The federal government will pay 90% of costs for family-planning services and a little more than half of the costs for other women’s health services. State funds will cover the rest.

“With Governor Abbott’s strong leadership, we continue making significant strides in improving access to women’s health and family planning services in Texas,” said Courtney Phillips, executive commissioner of Texas’ health and human services agency.

Women’s health advocates, who have long condemned the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, criticized the decision.

"This waiver is a sham process meant to condone the targeting of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health care providers without actually improving services for women,” said Stacey Pogue, a women’s health expert from the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities think tank.

Pogue said the federal funds will merely supplant money the state already spends and will not actually improve services for Texas women.