Texas Republicans May Do Away With Women's Health Program

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Texas Republicans were temporarily slowed in their efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood yesterday, as the Federal government denied the state's request to exclude PP from the list of providers in the Medicaid Women's Health Program. Basically, Republicans are trying to put Planned Parenthood out of business in Texas by blocking them from receiving patients who use the Medicaid WHP to pay for health care. Charming!

While on one hand this is good news for women, as the Federal decision extends the Medicaid WHP for three months, the bad news is that Republicans may decide to end the Women's Health Program entirely out of spite.

From the Texas Tribune:

Fran Hagerty, chief executive of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, characterized the federal decision – which extends the program for three months while state officials decide whether to back down from their request – as “the ugliest possible scenario.” She fears the state will opt to end the Women's Health Program rather than allow Planned Parenthood to continue to be part of it, and that 130,000 low-income women may end up losing out on cancer screenings and birth control.

The Tribune doesn't make it painfully, obviously clear that it's Republicans who are behind these efforts to drastically impede women's access to health care. So I will!

This is another effort by Texas Republicans to deliberately and aggressively destroy comprehensive women's health care in Texas. This is not just about stopping abortion: this is about preventing women and children from receiving health care, by shutting down one of the major providers of care to low-income women: Planned Parenthood. Texas Republicans are trying to make women's health care a partisan issue, and standing firmly against women having the full range of providers and services available to them.

What does our Governor have to say about it? Again, the Tribune quotes Fran Hagerty:

Perry is “blaming the feds and saying that this money was going to go to abortions. That's a complete lie,” Hagerty said. “This is a federal program, and they have any right to say you have to let every qualified provider participate. You can't pick and choose who you like and don't like.”

Planned Parenthood is at the crux here not only because they provide abortions, but because 44% of the Medicaid WHP program funds to go the provider, which is used for basic health care and family planning. Pap smears, breast exams, well-woman visits, STD screenings, birth control prescriptions. Planned Parenthood is simply the largest service provider in Texas through the Women's Health Program.

Republicans have a solution: Planned Parenthood can just stop providing abortions! Then everyone wins, except women and their pesky right to choose!

More below the jump:  

State Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, said there is a quick solution to this entire debate. “The problem could be solved tomorrow if Planned Parenthood just renounces abortions and just does family planning and comprehensive care, which they're capable of,” he said. “Then we could provide a lot of family planning, and there wouldn't be abortions and this problem would go away.”

In other words, everything would be hunky dory if women would just stop trying to exercise their right to a safe, legal abortion! Gosh darn it women, get those shoes off, get back in the kitchen, and bake something.

Deuell's statement is just the latest from Texas Republicans about how they want to end abortion, and if they're really successful, curtail access to birth control and overall family planning services. Listen to Republican Legislator Wayne Christian, asked about his crusade against family planning in Texas:

“Of course it's a war on birth control and abortions and everything — that's what family planning is supposed to be about.” — Wayne Christian

Christian led the charge last session to de-fund family planning services in Texas. He passed one amendment to cut $6.6 million from the family planning budget and divert it to a defunded program for children with autism.

Another male Republican, Rep. Randy Weber, sponsored an amendment last session that diverts $7 million in family planning funds to “abortion alternative agencies,” aka Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which basically scare and trick women into carrying their unwanted pregnancies to term. CPC's give women deliberately false medical information — for instance, many state that having an abortion will give a women breast cancer. (This is not true! Actual science does not support this idea!)

In total, during the 82nd Legislative Session, Republicans moved over $27 million out of the family planning budget. Texas Republicans are literally waging a war on women's health care, under the guise of ending abortions. Don't like abortion? Don't have one. But don't try to end access to birth control, low-cost cancer screenings, and basic health care. Then you're just a misogynistic jerk who can't handle the rigors of the modern era.

Texas has a tremendous need for Family Planning services, and currently receives significant help paying for them from the Federal government. In a guest column in the Texas Tribune, State Representative Donna Howard outlined some of the statistics:

  • Texas ranks highest in the nation in the number residents who are uninsured women between the ages of 18 to 44.
  • Texas receives $9 from the federal government for every $1 the state contributes to Medicaid Women's Health Program (WHP).
  • During the first two years of WHP's implementation, Texas saved $37,640,727 and served 141,506 clients.

By slashing Family Planning funds, the Republican Legislature will practically guarantee that these uninsured women lose access to basic health services and family planning services, and that Texas will lose significant Federal funds to pay for it. Other states will get the money that is intended for Texas women. If Texas Republicans are successful in shutting down providers such as Planned Parenthood and limiting women's access to family planning services — not to mention general health care like pap smears and breast exams — the consequences will be dire.

For starters, Texas will end up with more unwanted pregnancies, due to decreased access to birth control. More unwanted pregnancies will lead to more abortions. More unwanted pregnancies will also lead to more unwanted children, born to families that cannot afford them, at a time when Republicans are slashing programs that would actually help these children and families succeed. We'll also have more severe cases of cervical and breast cancer that could have been caught early, higher STD rates, and higher medical costs to treat all of the problems that could have been detected and treated earlier, but for Republicans' war on Planned Parenthood.  

This is NOT just a women's issue. This issue affects every man, woman and child in Texas. If you care about our state, if you care about the people in it, if you believe people have the right to make their own basic health decisions, if you believe that people should have access to low-cost comprehensive health care, then you need to care about the Republican war on women's health care. Destroying family planning will have dire consequences for our state.  


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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