Spending nearly $6 million in taxpayer money on lawsuits against the federal government should make Ken Paxton nauseous – all of that financial frivolity! – but it appears to be a weird source of pride for Texas’ attorney general and his cronies higher up. Even as the Ws continue to remain elusive. The state’s record versus Obama is a paltry 7-12, with nine cases withdrawn. If the state of Texas were an NFL team, it would be playing for a high draft pick now, not the playoffs.
The latest of Texas’ 18 pending cases involves Planned Parenthood, a familiar foe – the Giants, say, or the Eagles to our Cowboys. In 2011, the Republican-led Texas Legislature moved to cut family-funding grants by 66 percent for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics across the state. Remaining monies were redirected to community health centers and county health departments that provide more comprehensive care, resulting in the closure of 82 family-planning clinics, a third of them affiliated with Planned Parenthood. The result: more babies born in poverty.
In addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood also offers prenatal care, assorted illness screenings (including for diabetes), and potentially life-saving treatments (vaccines, smoking cessation programs). In Texas, more than 11,000 women, all near or at the bottom of the income bracket, will be without care if Paxton and the boys get their latest wish. Last week, the attorney general and Gov. Greg Abbott announced their plan to eliminate Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program, which would result in a loss of about $3.1 million in aid.
Paxton et al. are basing their decision mostly on those craftily edited and widely debunked videos of Planned Parenthood employees allegedly selling baby parts. Several other Republican-led states have tried to push Planned Parenthood out of their Medicaid programs based on the videos. None has succeeded. What makes Texas think it can? Clearly, Austin’s finest, like the biggest, most tattooed monster truck drivers, have something to prove. Even after an 18-month state investigation into the videos –– that’s still ongoing –– and even after investigations by 13 other states that turned up nothing, Paxton and company want to take all of our hard-earned money and blow it on even more vindictiveness toward a White House that isn’t white enough, isn’t pro-Christian enough, and isn’t male-oriented enough for their liking.
Lawmakers in Austin may claim they’re on a mission from God to save taxpayer money, but it’s worth remembering that abortions at Planned Parenthood are done by a separate entity from the Medicaid-funded programs, one that receives zero public funds.
Planned Parenthood is more important now than ever –– and more important in Texas than in perhaps any other state. The largest number of uninsured people in the country live here. For uninsured women who are pregnant or have just given birth, their only resource for maternal care is Planned Parenthood. The state’s latest attack could mean death for some of them. And not figuratively. Real, bona fide, genuine death. In a recent national study, Maryland-based researchers found that pregnancy-related deaths in Texas across the board seem to have doubled from 2010 to 2014, making the Lone Star State one of the deadliest places to have a baby not only in the country but in the developed world.
“A national embarrassment,” said Eugene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health who led the national study.
The other day, a request was filed to stop Texas from eliminating Planned Parenthood’s funds. Though Paxton and Abbott have not commented, they will undoubtedly continue paying teams of Republican lawyers very pretty pennies to file additional paperwork in response.