On Thursday, more than
130,000 Texas women faced the unthinkable. They lost access to their primary
care health provider because a small cadre of Republican legislators decided
that “small government” really means small enough to fit into a woman’s womb.
As reported in this
paper last week (War on Women, March 7) Governor Rick Perry stood his ground
(to protect the “unborn”) and let the Medicaid Women’s Health Program – in
place since 2005 – die. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
announced that it could no longer provide the 90 percent annual funding for the
program (approximately $40 million) because Perry and the Republican-led state
lege, in their infinite wisdom as closet gynecologists, have passed a law that
forbids Medicaid funds to go to any women’s health care providers if those
providers are connected in any way to abortion services. The law was aimed
directly at Planned Parenthood, the provider of choice for more than 40 percent
of the low-income women – most of them single mothers – in the program. However,
PP also provides abortion services – legal for the past 38 years – at a small
number of clinics, all private pay. Not one penny of federal dollars goes to
pay for abortions. Read that again. Not. One. Penny.
But because PP provides
abortions, for that reason, and that reason alone, “Doctor” Perry and the newly
crowned medical team of conservative state legislators, have decided that
hundreds of thousands of Texas women now and in the future will no longer have
access to well-women’s services such as contraceptives, screenings for uterine,
cervical, ovarian and breast cancers as well as diabetes, sexually transmitted
diseases and heart problems—all known killers of women. Therefore, in order to
save the “unborn,” as Perry explains his and the legislators’ action, hundreds
of thousands of Texas women will be put at a high risk of dying.
Perry, et.al, are trying
to blame the feds and in particular President Barack Obama, for this mess. But
the Obama administration is simply following the law established years ago by a
bi-partisan congress. The law that established Medicaid also established the
right of those eligible for the program to go to the doctors or clinics of
their choice for health care – as long as those health providers accepted Medicaid,
as Planned Parenthood has always done. The states could not pass laws that
would deny that right. If they did, as Texas and dozens of other states are now
doing, the states would lose the federal funding for their portion of the
Medicaid program. In Texas, for the Women’s Health Program, that translated to
nine dollars of federal money for every one dollar the state contributed. Now
that lucrative stream of money will dry up in three to six months, according to
the feds who have notified the state that it will gradually withhold the funds
over that period of time.
Pressure from women’s
groups across the country have caused the gov to back down a bit, swearing that
he will “find the money” to continue the program with state funds (maintaining
his commitment to make sure Planned Parenthood gets nary a cent.) He hasn’t
said where that money will come from, given the fact that the state has also
cut health funding for other programs by a staggering 66 percent. Non-profit
clinics across the state have closed down because of the cuts. In the Valley
alone, out of more than a dozen non-profit health providers, only two remain
open. In other parts of the state, clinics are closing as well, some in North
Texas and areas of rural West and East Texas where Planned Parenthood is the
only reproductive health provider for the area’s women and men. It is little
known, but PP also provides contraceptives, vasectomies, prostate cancer and
sexually transmitted disease screenings for men.
This is not just a “war
against women” as feminist groups around the country have charged. This is a
war against reproductive health for all Texas citizens.
And this in a state with
some of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, uninsured kids, poor, single
mothers and infant mortalities in the nation.
But not to worry. The
gov and his minions are saving the unborn – even as they deny them and their
mothers the health care they both need to survive once they are born.