The Texas health agency announced late on Friday that it will terminate the state’s multi-million-dollar family planning contracts with the Heidi Group, the anti-abortion organization tapped to replace Planned Parenthood in the state’s women’s health programs.
The surprise announcement comes two weeks after the Observer reported that the Heidi Group served only 5 percent of the patients it promised in fiscal year 2017. Data obtained by the Observer showed that the organization, led by anti-abortion activist Carol Everett, served just over 3,300 clients, less than 5 percent of the nearly 70,000 the group was contractually obligated to cover.
Women’s health advocates celebrated the decision Friday. They have long said that awarding the contracts to Everett — who had no experience running a family planning program and wrote a memoir titled Blood Money: Getting Rich Off a Women’s Right to Choose — was an ideologically-driven decision by state officials who wanted to show they could build a network of women’s health providers without Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions.
The Heidi Group was the only provider in the state’s two women’s health programs — Healthy Texas Women and the Family Planning Program — to have its funding clawed back by the state in 2017. Yet the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) renewed Everett’s contracts for 2018 and 2019, telling the Observer last month that the new contracts would be adjusted mid-year if the Heidi Group missed its goals.
On Friday, HHSC said in a letter to Everett that it will end her contracts in both programs on December 11. The agency said it is requiring her to pay back $29,431, and referred an additional $1.1 million in billed costs to the Office of Inspector General for investigation.
“We worked with the Heidi Group over time on its performance, and we have determined that the Heidi Group is unable to meet the standards of a successful contractor with us,” HHSC spokesperson Carrie Williams wrote in an email. The agency found “programmatic and fiscal issues that raised concerns,” and ultimately concluded that “the Heidi Group is unable to come into compliance.”
Still unanswered is why the contract was awarded the the Heidi Group in the first place, and how the organization spent the several million dollars.