The left-leaning nonprofit Progress Texas is asking the state auditor’s office to investigate a $1.6 million state contract awarded to an anti-abortion group under the state’s new Healthy Texas Women program.
As the Observer first reported Wednesday, the Heidi Group’s contract for the reproductive health program is so far second only to the contract awarded to the Harris County public health department. The Heidi Group does not currently provide medical services or employ medical staff, but founder Carol Everett has said that her group will coordinate with medical providers in rural areas to provide contraception, cancer screenings and other services.
According to Progress Texas advocacy director Lucy Stein, that raises some red flags about whether the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) improperly awarded the funds to Everett’s group.
“Texas health officials have no business inserting anti-abortion activist Carol Everett and her anti-abortion group in between Texas women and their access to health care,” said Stein in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “HHSC needs to be held accountable for funding this fraud, and Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for this sham.”
According to the Heidi Group’s tax documents, the $1.6 million contract would quadruple the nonprofit’s operating budget. Everett, who has loaned the organization in excess of $100,000 over the last several years, is the group’s sole employee, according to its latest IRS filing. The nonprofit is apparently looking to hire a clinical program director and billing support staff.
In its request for an investigation, Progress Texas notes that Everett serves on the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, which provides input to the state health department on the implementation of its retooled reproductive health care safety net. Texas has spent the last year or so reorganizing after anti-abortion lawmakers barred Planned Parenthood from receiving public funds, and the $18 million Healthy Texas Women program is the result.
Progress Texas questioned whether a group that until a few weeks ago operated with the stated mission of “helping girls and women with unplanned pregnancies make life-affirming choices” because abortion is “contrary to God’s will” could provide the medical services promised by the new program.
In an email earlier this week, an HHSC spokesperson told the Observer that “the Heidi Group has changed its focus and will now be providing women’s health and family planning services required by Healthy Texas Women, including birth control, STI screening and treatment, plus cancer screenings to women across Texas.”
Everett told the Observer that her group will be “facilitating and administrating” the Healthy Texas Women program for Texas medical providers in order to better serve women in rural areas.
“I am really trying to help those women,” Everett said Wednesday. “I am not getting paid out of this money. I’m not making any money out of this.”
Everett said she would also be distributing bug spray to women in the Rio Grande Valley to combat the Zika virus.
“I’m not going to be giving them bug repellents with DEET,” she said. “They’re getting the organic stuff. I want them to have what I wear.”
Progress Texas also launched an online petition calling for Everett’s removal from the Women’s Health Advisory Committee and the termination of HHSC’s contract with the Heidi Group.