Last week, the Texas state senate convened a public hearing on women’s health care. The agenda of the committee on health and human services meeting, chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson, was to “build on previous legislative achievements in women’s healthcare” and to “recommend ways to better coordinate the various programs” serving women’s health needs.
? Texas has slashed funding for women’s health, leaving more than 155,000 women statewide without cancer screenings, birth control, and other health care. This shameful status is an “achievement”? The inadequate avenues still standing can be “better coordinated”? Sen. Nelson’s Orwellian doublespeak is a political farce, and it doesn’t fool the savvy women of this state. They are fed up with out-of-touch politicians and ready for change.
In world time, it’s 2014, but in Texas, the clock has gone back to an era when birth control was banned and people of color were obstructed from voting. The relentless political attacks against Texas women’s health—affecting primarily low-income women of color—have only gotten worse. That’s why we need new leadership that tells it like it is.
Here’s the real story you won’t hear from the politicians behind this political theater: Texas women are facing a health-care disaster at the hands of a small and extreme group of politicians. Any one of the restrictions passed in the last several years would be bad enough—but taken together, they create a catastrophe. In 2011, the Texas legislature made cruel and devastating cuts to basic preventive health care. Adding insult to injury, it also banned Planned Parenthood—the largest provider of family planning services in the state—from the Texas Women’s Health Program. Low-income women systematically were denied access to the health care they require, including cancer screenings and birth control.
In 2013, rather than restoring the family planning cuts, the legislature added $100 million in new funding to the state’s budget for women’s health care, including family planning. On paper, it sounds good—until you take a close look. The network of providers in this program does not include providers like Planned Parenthood, which traditionally serve the most family planning patients and provide the widest range of reproductive health services, leaving many Texas women in need out in the cold. Let’s be clear: Texas politicians have not restored the programs that provide birth control and wellness exams for low-income women.
But the people of Texas are straight shooters who will not stand for this intolerable bait-and switch. Texans continue to rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable care and accurate health education. Planned Parenthood continues to provide cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care at nearly 50 health centers across the state. Safe, legal abortion services are provided at its health centers in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. For everyone, Planned Parenthood’s doors remain open—no matter what.
If the people of Texas showed America one thing during the historic protests last summer against restrictions on safe, legal abortion, it was that they value women’s health. More than 6,000 people rallied at the capitol, 34,000 people wrote letters to their legislators, and 2,300 people testified against the dangerous restrictions. And Texans didn’t stop there. This fall, more than 19,000 residents urged the Department of State Health Services to create abortion regulations that allow existing quality providers to remain in service—opposition that fell on deaf ears.
Texans need new leaders who value women’s health—not politicians willing to throw women and their access to health care overboard to score political points. They most definitely deserve leaders who mean what they say and say what they mean. Recently, Attorney General Greg Abbott declared, “I’m proud to say there is nobody in the state of Texas who has done more to fight to help women than I have in the past decade.” Again with the doublespeak.
The “help” we truly need is new leaders who protect a Texas woman’s right and ability to make her own medical decisions.