Senator Ted Cruz has decided that the highest and best use of us time is not serving you, the people of Texas, or even you, the 2,759 people who’ve donated over $2.3M to him in the past couple of years, or even you, the four or so folks who’ve made 8-figure gifts to super PACS supporting him.
No, it is to be an integral part of a 50-state campaign to eliminate taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services.
What does this mean to Ted Cruz? It means he’ll rise up above the crowd for some period of time as the darling of the extreme right that dominates the Republican primary process.
In other words, it is a calculated move designed to advance his standings in the polls, whether it accomplishes its goal or not. And since five states have already completed investigations into Planned Parenthood and found on wrongdoing, it is likely that he won’t accomplish his goal.
It is, for him, a talking point and a game.
What does this mean to Texas?
For Texans, it is not a game.
What do we lose if we lose Planned Parenthood?
Who is hurt? The majority of people seeking care at Planned Parenthood live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. In 2013, that means that nearly 1/3rd of Texans would have qualified for free or reduced-price care at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
What services disappear?
• Annual exams that provide screening for cancer (cervical and breast), high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions.
• Birth control—and not just the screening and education and prescribing of it, but the ability to buy it at deeply discounted rates.
• Testing, treatment, and prevention education for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
• A substantial portion of HIV services in Texas prisons would disappear, as Planned Parenthood is a major provider of that care.
• Treatment for early-stage cervical cancer and precancerous conditions.
• Educational programs. Planned Parenthood educators provide age-appropriate, medically-accurate sex education to schools, youth groups, and scouting troops. They also provide continuing education for a wide range of health and medical professionals, members of the clergy, teachers, social workers, and others in care-giving professions.
But can’t other clinics provide these services? Journalist Andrea Grimes famously called clinics across Austin listed as alternate providers when the state legislature slashed women’s health funding. Her investigation proved that the list of “available” providers included labs that did not provide any care, clinics that did not accept Medicaid patients, clinics that did not provide well-woman exams, and a small handful of clinics that in theory, provided the care, but in actuality, did not have appointments available for months.
Has it improved? I searched the state website and called three providers ostensibly available in a 30-mile radius of my home. I got no answer at one, no available appointments at the second, and a single available appointment 9 weeks from now at a third. I stopped calling.
What about abortion—does he at least do what he says and end funding for abortion? There is no federal or state funding for abortion in Texas. There has not been since the mid-1970s. Abortion is hard to access in Texas, but when people do get abortions, they generally pay cash.
The laws that have gone onto the books restricting how clinics can provide care are what limit access to abortion. Defunding Planned Parenthood services that are not abortion will not do nothing to stop abortion.
Being pregnant when they don’t want to be pregnant is pretty much the top reason people cite for seeking abortion case. Defunding the rest of Planned Parenthood’s services, of course, is the easiest way for more people to find themselves pregnant when they neither wanted nor planned to be.
Reason and logic, however, seem to be the real enemy of Cruz’s campaign, and that’s what is truly sobering.
You may not care about abortion, birth control, or women’s health. This movement, however, will affect you, and not just because it will reduce the overall health of your community.
The attacks on Planned Parenthood have become a proxy battle for a perverted notion of religious liberty that upends the separation of church and state outlined in our constitution and that pits logic against faith. Ted Cruz has become a religious leader:
At his religious liberty-themed rally in Des Moines on Friday night, Cruz cast himself as the only choice for evangelical voters. There is a “war on faith,” he said, as he quoted scripture and paced the stage like a televangelist; evangelical voters will “stay home no longer.”
Today, ideologues encouraged by Cruz and his ilk are denying marriage licenses and refusing to provide contraception. They are using their religious beliefs to pick and choose what medical care emergency rooms will provide. They are using the bible to guide decisions on what materials go into public school text books. They are claiming they have the civil right to practice a religion that allows them to deny civil rights to others.
If they can end funding for an effective, well-regarded, nationwide healthcare provider like Planned Parenthood, they can come after what matters to you, and they will not be concerned about the truth or reason or the constitution when they do it.