Today attorneys for Texas Planned Parenthood were in federal court once again to “protect access to preventative health care including cancer screenings, birth control and annual exams” for more than 50,000 women who are enrolled in the state’s Women’s Health Program that is under the axe of Gov Rick Perry and Republican state legislators. The TPP lawyers are arguing on behalf of Texas women, most of whom are poor, young, single moms, without health insurance and totally dependent on their local Planned Parenthood center for their “well woman” exams and for birth control. These women will soon be without access to any reproductive health care if Perry’s threat to deny federal funding to keep the WHP alive unless Planned Parenthood health centers are cut from the program, survives.
The TPP lawyers hope to convince a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse their own ruling that overturned an injunction against implementing the cuts by US District Court Judge Lee Yeakel of San Antonio a few months ago. Yeakel’s injunction was based on what he said would be the impact the rule would have for low-income Texas women in need of access to the Women’s Health Program services, which includes “lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs, breast health services, Pap tests, and sexual health education and information.
“The record demonstrates that plaintiffs currently provide a critical component of Texas’ family-planning services to low-income women,” Judge Yeakel wrote. “The court is unconvinced that Texas will be able to find substitute providers for these women in the immediate future, despite its stated intention to do so.”
Perry and his conservative cohorts are targeting the program, which is overwhelmingly utilized through Planned Parenthood clinics, under the guise of “protecting the unborn,” claiming that the state is cutting the funding for the program because Planned Parenthood provides another service for women that is perfectly legal, abortion. It is a spurious argument. Even though abortion has been legal in this country since 1973, none of the federal money that goes to the WHP is spent on abortions. Federal law, known as the Hyde Amendment, that has been in effect for decades prohibits any federal funding of abortion.
The federal dollars provided for the Planned Parenthood clinics are totally separate from the clinics that provide abortion services, which are a very small percentage of PP’s overall health care in any event. Plus, all abortion services are self-pay. That is any woman who goes in for an abortion must pay for it out of pocket.
“Given that one in four women in Texas lack health insurance, and we have one of the nation’s highest rates of cervical cancer, Planned Parenthood remains as committed as ever to continuing to care for all women who rely on us,” stated Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Texas. Not only is Texas one of the highest in the nation with women and children who have no health coverage, it also is near the top in the percentage of teen pregnancies. Supporters of Planned Parenthood point to the obvious: Affordable birth control and reproductive health educational programs that PP provides would do more to prevent abortions than attacking the clinics that provide the service.
In addition to this latest assault on women’s health, the rule to exclude Planned Parenthood from WHP comes after budget cuts passed by the state legislature and signed by Perry last year have dramatically reduced the state’s separately funded family planning program by more than two-thirds. These cuts are projected to take reproductive health care away from 160,000 women per year. Now add in the 50,000 who will be left out of the WHP and the crisis becomes catastrophic.
And the Republicans are still denying that their effort to control women’s reproductive rights is a “war on women.”