Several hundred people rallied at the Capitol today to support reinstating Planned Parenthood into the Women's Health Program. Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) is the author of HB 2819, the bill seeks to undo the changes made last session by Republicans seeking to ban clinics with any affiliation to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood was the intended target but the victims most hurt are low income women across the state. In her rally speech Rep. Thompson told the crowd, “I know if men could get pregnant, there would be birth control in chewing gum packages!”. But, of course they can not and this ideological battle is costing the state millions of dollars in additional Medicaid expenses, a point Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) made the during her turn at the mic,
“More than half of the births today are Medicaid births. And so for my colleagues that are back there that do not like Medicaid and don't want to expand it and such they are taking the fast track to make sure there are more people who need Medicaid.”
Projections by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimate that low income women will give birth to as many as 23,760 babies in the 2014-15 biennium as a result of reduced access to birth control. That means the $73 million cut from the program will cost taxpayers $273 million in additional Medicaid services to those children.
According to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas in 2012 alone the organization helped more than 128,000 clients receive low cost health care and health related information. About 95% of what Planned Parenthood clinics offer are preventive services including: breast cancer screenings, HIV tests, birth control, and health education to teens and their parents meant to prevent teenage pregnancy. Currently Texas has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation and that serves as a referendum on our policies towards health care, women's issues and education.
Sarah Wheat is Vice President of Community Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, she helped to organize the event and had this to say:
Our mission is to make sure women can access these services because many other healthcare providers do not accept Medicaid. In Texas we have such a high number of people who don't have access to health care and Planned Parenthood serves as a cost effective way to ensure that uninsured and low income individuals can get the regular check ups they need. For 5 years we were part of a very successful program where the federal government paid 90% of the costs and the state paid the remaining 10%.
The purpose of today's event was to let know patients, past patients, members and supporters come and let their elected officials know what Planned Parenthood does for the community. We had about 750 supporters from all over the state and visited every legislator's office.
There were several Democratic House and Senate members who spoke at the rally in favor of reinstating Planned Parenthood into the Women's Health Program but there no Republican speakers. That's a daunting fact considering any change will need bipartisan support. Many of the elected Democrat acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand. To that end Rep. Mary Gonzales (D-El Paso) urged attendants to help her, “fight for the people in her district 500 miles away who could not be here.” Her sentiment was echoed by Rep. Farrar who said,
“We don't end here until May 27th so you need to be a really rowdy crowd for another couple of moths or more because we need to know you've got our back. Seeing you here we know that to be the case, but y'all need to light up those emails and those phones and keep in contact with your legislators. Don't let today be the last day.”
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