Texas's Women's Health Program used to serve nearly 111,000 women in dire need of affordable medical care — until Governor Rick Perry barred all clinics that provide, refer, or even promote abortion from inclusion. His decision prompted the federal government to cut 90% of the WHP's funding, leaving the state scrambling to find almost $38 million dollars to pay for (morally acceptable) healthcare. But Texas ladies don't need to worry, because it looks like Perry's come up with a solution: crisis pregnancy centers that falsely claim to have "revamped" their services. Who needs Planned Parenthood when you can get a free slut-shaming alongside your mammogram?
If you haven't been following the WHP debacle, here's a brief recap: this year, healthcare providers who wanted to be part of the program basically had to confirm that they would never provide for abortions, recommend abortions, or utter any words or phrases that referred to the A-word. As you can probably imagine, this was a hard promise for many officials to make, given that abortion is a safe and legal medical procedure that four out of every 10 women who experience an unintended pregnancy undergo in the United States. 28 Planned Parenthood clinics — which formerly provided care for almost 50% of WHP clients and didn't even perform abortions — were out, obviously, as well as 71 other health centers, physicians, and family planning clinics. All together, the 99 providers made up 61% of WHP claims.
Texas's actions were grossly illegal — states aren't allowed to restrict patients' choice of providers, if said providers are qualified to deliver Medicaid-covered care — so the federal government cut funding for the program, leaving the WHP with $37.9 million instead of $111 million. Perry, who cares about embryos way more than he cares about fully-formed women, proudly announced that he DGAF: instead of compromising, Texas would revamp the WHP and turn it into a state-run program. How would the state find the money to do that? WHY ARE YOU ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS? This is America! We don't have to rely on anyone!
Since then, the federal cuts have hurt Texas's low-income women in a myriad of horrible ways. According to Austinist:
Family planning clinics that still received funding faced budget cuts of up to 75 percent. While 25 family planning clinics closed, many existing clinics are now charging for previously free services, raising prices on some services, and restricting access to more expensive and effective methods of contraception such as intrauterine devices and subdermal implants. Some providers have even started waiting lists for IUD's and implants. Additionally, the poorest women who cannot pay are now being turned away from well-woman exams and birth control pills, while their visits would have previously been covered by public funds.
But Perry isn't done making women's lives harder! Texas is still considering even stricter mandates, like a "gag rule" that would censor doctors from talking about abortion with their patients, even if their patients aren't enrolled in the WHP. "Because of the proposed rules, we are very concerned about the future viability of this important program," a bunch of sane medical officials wrote in comments to the Department of State Health Services, representing organizations including the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, and the Texas Pediatric Society, which all together represent more than 47,000 doctors and medical students. "If adopted as proposed, the rules will undoubtedly dramatically decrease the number of physicians willing to participate in the [Texas WHP]." You don't say.
But girl, don't fret. Perry's here to take care of you. It looks like he's come up with an alternative to these pesky "health" clinics that aim to take care of women's "reproductive rights": medically licensed crisis pregnancy centers, which often care more about convincing pregnant women not to get abortions than they do about the veracity of the tactics they use to get the job done.
Last week, Perry cut a shiny new ribbon at The Source for Women in Houston, a CPC that, until very recently, didn't provide "reproductive health care services," including birth control, pap smears, or mammograms, just counseling and "education," including Bible study. Helpful! Source CEO Cynthia S. Wenz told the Austin Chronicle that the center will now have nurse practitioners on staff who will administer pap smears and actual STI disease testing and treatment, not just dubious "counseling."
But make no mistake: the Source is not becoming a legitimate women's health clinic in any sense of the phrase. Wenz said the center is "absolutely addressing the birth control issue," but won't provide anything it considers an abortifacient — including the morning after pill — and that the board is currently determining the parameters of its "prescriptive authority."
The way you "address the birth control issue" is by providing birth control. And the way you care and treat women is to offer them all of the medical options they are legally entitled to as U.S. citizens.
If there was still any confusion, the Austin Chronicle also notes that the Source will stay true to its roots by continuing to accept money from the state as a participant in the "Alternatives to Abortion program," an anti-choice program which gave the Source $85,000 last year.
"Here in Texas, we've worked hard to strengthen our abortion laws, empower families, and protect our children's future," Perry said after cutting the ribbon at the center's ribbon cutting ceremony. "We've banned the use of your tax dollars for abortion procedures in Texas, and expanded that ban to include those affiliated with abortion providers in the case of our Women's Health Program. We've stood strong … and proclaimed the truth that protecting the rights of abortion providers and protecting women's health are not the same thing. The Source for Women clinics, in fact, will be a part of Texas' own Women's Health Program, and Planned Parenthood will not be."
Perry couldn't make his dream of women's healthcare any clearer. His vision is terrifying.