Putting Anti-Choice Group in Charge of Family Planning Flops in Texas

“There was nothing in The Heidi Group's operations or history to indicate that this non-medical organization was even remotely qualified to provide comprehensive reproductive health care."

Carol Everett, the group's CEO, placed most of the blame for the organization’s subpar performance on the clinics with which it works. FacingLifeHeadOn / YouTube

A Texas anti-choice organization contracted to distribute millions in state funds for family planning services has failed to provide the services promised. State officials responded by slashing the organization’s funding.

The Heidi Group was awarded $1.6 million in August 2016 to provide services through the Healthy Texas Women Program, along with a contract to distribute $5 million to a network of family planning providers serving Texans with low incomes.

Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told the Associated Press that the Heidi Group will now receive less than $1 million for family planning services.

“They didn’t reach their own targets during this first year of ramp up,” Williams told the AP. “We’re adjusting the amounts to make sure we are maximizing services for women through our contractors.”

Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told Rewire in an email that the Heidi Group contract was an example of Texas officials placing “politics over people.”

“There was nothing in the Heidi Group’s operations or history to indicate that this non-medical organization was even remotely qualified to provide comprehensive reproductive health care,” Busby said.

Carol Everett, the Heidi Group’s founder and CEO, set ambitious expectations for the organization when it submitted a bid for the state contract. The Heidi Group’s application listed 16 subcontractors operating 20 clinics. The organization projected that it would provide family planning services to more than 50,000 clients.

But Everett has reportedly struggled with outreach efforts as the group’s network of providers has failed to meet more modest goals. Williams told the Associated Press that the organization now plans to serve only a “fifth of the nearly 18,000 women originally projected.”

The Heidi Group, which has been criticized for funneling taxpayer dollars to anti-choice fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, has come under scrutiny by some Texas lawmakers for the way in which the original contract was awarded.

Everett has placed most of the blame for the organization’s performance on the providers, but it remains unclear how many providers remain in the organization’s network and how many clients they are serving.

Connie Wyatt, CEO of Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center, told Rewire in a March email that she attended a “roll-out meeting” for the program in August 2016 but decided not to be part of the program.

“When the program was rolled out, it did not come through as the lawmakers originally stated it would, and therefore, we did not finalize as a subcontractor with Heidi Group nor did we participate in the program or ever apply for or receive funds,” Wyatt said.

Busby said the state’s decision to “award undeserved millions of taxpayer dollars” to the Heidi Group was driven by ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood. “Tens of thousands of Texas in need of health care will pay the price for our state leadership’s unhealthy relationship with anti-abortion zealots like Everett,” Busby said.