The Texas Legislature’s assault on women’s healthcare took another devastating turn yesterday, as a House-Senate conference committee approved a budget that would remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program.
The new budget is a modification of the Republican-controlled Texas Senate’s earlier proposal for a tiered funding system to prioritize the allocation of funds for breast and cervical cancer screenings. That proposal would have affected cancer clinics in addition to Planned Parenthood, so the Lege changed their budget to only cut funding for health clinics affiliated with abortion providers. Planned Parenthood clinics that do perform abortions are already prohibited from receiving state funding for cancer screenings, but that wasn’t enough for the conservatives in the Texas Legislature. Now, thousands of low-income women will lose access to life-saving cancer screenings, simply because Texas Republican legislators want to spite Planned Parenthood.
Last year, Planned Parenthood received $1.2 million in funding, and provided close to 3,000 low-income, uninsured women with breast and cervical cancer screenings.
The Lege’s most recent actions echo their 2011 cuts to women’s health that led to the creation of the Texas Women’s Health Program. In 2011, the Legislature chose to exclude Planned Parenthood from the successful Medicaid Women’s Health Program, thus forgoing the $9 to $1 federal matching funds that would have meant the program only cost the state $3.4 million. Instead, the state chose to create the 100% state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program, which costs taxpayers $36 million, while serving 30,000 fewer women in need of healthcare.
The main author of the new budget, State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), has essentially admitted that the refusal to fund Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings is solely politically motivated. As she has said, “There are many members that feel very strongly that the facilities that receive funding should not be facilities for performing abortions, so the answer is, don’t perform abortions and you get the money.”
Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, condemned the Legislature for putting politics over the lives of Texas women:
“Senator Jane Nelson and certain members of the Budget Conference Committee have made clear that they prioritize politics over protecting access to lifesaving cancer screenings for Texas women.
Through our Save our Screenings campaign, more than fifteen thousand Texans have petitioned the Texas Legislature, asking that they not exclude Planned Parenthood from the program. Once again, Texas legislators have ignored their constituents and jeopardized the lives of Texas women.
Women in Texas have trusted and relied upon Planned Parenthood for health care for 80 years. We will fight this shameful attack and we will never back down from our mission to provide Texans the quality, affordable care they need.”
Texas ranks among the worst states for cervical cancer incidence and fatalities–more women are diagnosed with and die of cervical cancer in Texas than in most other states. Over the past 20 years, Planned Parenthood has been able to provide nearly 45,000 women with life-saving cancer screenings in partnership with the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program. In a statement, Diane Dunn, a Planned Parenthood BCCS patient from Waco, recounted how Planned Parenthood helped her (emphasis added):
“Planned Parenthood helped me when I could not get in anywhere else for breast cancer treatment – no one else would help me. I’m now cancer free and am anticipating going back to work part-time. I don’t know where I would be without Planned Parenthood.”
Back in February, when BOR first reported on the Lege’s plan to cut Planned Parenthood from cancer screening funding, our editor Katherine Haenschen put forth this important question: “Is shutting down Planned Parenthood more important to y’all than making sure that low-income and uninsured women don’t die of cancer?” Unfortunately for Texas women, it’s looking more and more like the answer is “Yes.”