In Texas, Abortion Trumps Healthcare Access

Political posturing over anti-choice fervor is severely affecting hundreds of thousands of Texas women who are struggling to access healthcare services that even the most devout pro-lifer would consider crucial, like breast cancer screenings and pap smears. But it doesn't look good for women like Maria Romero, a housecleaner with four children, who had a lump in her breast discovered at a Planned Parenthood 16 miles away — the closest women's clinic around nowadays — and has no way to get there on a regular basis for follow-up treatment. Tough luck, Maria, because the state Legislature recently cut women's health financing by two-thirds, resulting in the closure of over a dozen Planned Parenthoods. Supporters of the cuts told the New York Times that they were "motivated by the fight against abortion," even though not one of the clinics actually performed abortions.

Texas politicians, who apparently can't fathom why in the world a woman would visit a health clinic for any reason other than to receive an abortion, are now going after the Medicaid Women's Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics — including, yes, Planned Parenthood. Like all states, Texas prohibits clinics that perform abortions from using federal money, but Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican lawmakers are still bent on slashing the $35 million that finances the women's health program "in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it." The federal government says this is illegal, so if the regulations, scheduled to take effect next Wednesday, are not revised, the program will end, and the number of women in need of the clinics' services will increase to about 400,000. Wait times are already up to four weeks long at some clinics because so many have closed already, and birth control can cost women up to $20 because supplies are in such high demand.

Depressed yet? Sorry, there's more: Texas recently enacted a tiered system which only allows Planned Parenthood and other women's clinics to receive family planning money if the state can't give it to government-run clinics or to hospitals. Not that there's that much family planning money to go around, since the state also slashed its two-year family planning budget from $111 million to $38 million. The nonpartisan state Legislative Budget Board estimates that the decrease would end services for nearly 284,000 women, as well as result in 20,500 additional births and cost Medicaid about $230 million.

The state's lawmakers openly admit that they "kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood" — that's a direct quote from Wayne Christian, a Republican state representative who also said, "I don't think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we're opposed to are abortions." They remind me of the obnoxious kid I once babysat who would hold his hands over his ears and scream whatever he wanted while I tried to reason with him to no avail. Except instead of repeatedly whining, "But I want chicken nuggets," politicians rant endlessly about innocent unborn children and no one is willing or able to give them a permanent time-out.

Of course, drastic cuts like these aren't just taking place in Texas — our national GOP candidates are just as eager to slash Planned Parenthood and Title X funding for the same reasons. But this article provides an excellent glimpse into just one state's insanely overwhelming struggles to not only preserve a woman's right to choose but her right to get a fucking pap smear. One wishes the politicians gleefully cutting funds had to face the rising numbers of women who are now left without access to healthcare. Would that make them stop crying "abortion" every time they heard the phrase "women's health," or is that too much to ask for?

Women in Texas Losing Options for Health Care in Abortion Fight [NYT]