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“Nothing Changes” for Fifty Thousand Texans Forced to Find New Health Care Providers, Says State Attorney

9:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Nothing changes for her, other than she has to find a new doctor.”

A Texas planned parenthood

A Texas state attorney insists that defunding Planned Parenthood is no big deal.

That’s what attorney for the State of Texas Kristofer Monson told a judge last week when arguing for the state’s right to block Planned Parenthood from participating in its Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) because some Planned Parenthood clinics, wholly fiscally and geographically separate from others, provide safe, legal abortions. Nearly 50,000 Texans who are enrolled in the program will be forced to find new doctors for cancer screenings and contraception this year if the state gets its way; as of Monday, a judge’s refusal to grant a temporary injunction in favor of a Planned Parenthood patient fighting in court to continue seeing her regular doctor means that the health care provider is, for the first time, officially barred from the newly operational TWHP.

So, we’re meant to believe that nothing changes for “her,” for Texas’ tens of thousands of “hers,” other than they can no longer see the doctors and clinicians they’ve come to trust with their most intimate and private health needs? Kristofer Monson needs to check whatever he thinks the definition of “nothing” is.

Ladies, how long did it take you to find a gynecologist you clicked with? How many doctors were affordable but out of the way? How many doctors were expensive, but non-judgmental? How many doctors were right next door, but refused certain medications or procedures because of your age, sexuality, or marital status? How many of us are still looking, after years of trying, for a doctor that understands us and the needs of our families?

It’s hard enough to find a health provider when the State of Texas isn’t telling you who it thinks is qualified to treat you. But Texas thinks it has a right to tell poor women they can’t go to their usual doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood, not because they provide inferior services or cost more money than other health providers—in fact, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Planned Parenthood has historically provided some of the most efficient, cost-effective family planning care in the state—but because they are “affiliates” of doctors who provide a legal medical procedure: abortion.

The state is strong-arming Texans in a not-at-all veiled attempt to legislate morality; it’s telling low-income women that if they want to get the contraception and cancer screenings that the state has agreed to provide for them, they can’t go to a doctor who admits that his or her politics clash with Rick Perry’s, or Dan Patrick’s, or Bill Zedler’s, or with that of any number of the conservative male lawmakers who have appointed themselves official reproductive health decision makers for Texans.

But listen to Kristofer Monson, little ladies! It’s no big deal to find a whole new person in whose hands to put your reproductive health—and reproductive parts. Show your breasts and vulvae to a whole new State of Texas-approved stranger this year, maybe it’ll be great. Or maybe it’ll be horribly embarrassing, even demeaning, who knows? The risk of low-income Texas women being treated by a doctor who believes in reproductive freedom is definitely worth it!

I know it may seem convenient and comforting to see familiar faces when you’re making some of the most important health care decisions of your life, but hey, try something new! Live a little! Even if it takes you miles out of the way, means you have to listen to a religious lecture or forces you to wait months for a doctor’s appointment. Maybe while you’re riding the bus or counting the days down to your pap smear-a-la-stranger, you’ll realize that Texas merely wants what Republicans think is best for you.

Photo by Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

Rick Perry: Legislature Will Work Out Punishment for Women Seeking Later Abortions Under Proposed Ban

11:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry has thrown his support behind a potential 20-week abortion ban in the state, but his office told RH Reality Check that he’ll leave it up to legislators to determine the appropriate punishment for women who get later-term abortions.

A caricature of Rick Perry.

How much does Rick Perry hate women? He'll let the legislature decide.

After Perry’s appearance at a Houston crisis pregnancy center last week, RH Reality Check asked his office whether he supported any exceptions to the yet-to-be-proposed law, such as for cases of rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant person. His office’s answer: “those details will be worked out by the Legislature.”

We also wondered: what does Gov. Perry imagine the punishment should be for women who seek abortions after 20 weeks, were Texas to ban such procedures?

His office responded not with the usual anti-choice dithering about punishing doctors instead of abortion-seekers, but with a clear admission that punishment for these women is in order: “That will also be decided by the Legislature.”

What, indeed, might be the appropriate punishment for the southeast Texas single mother of seven children who sought an abortion at 21 weeks? Or the San Antonio woman, 20 weeks pregnant, who’s trying to leave an abusive relationship? Or the college junior from Oklahoma who is picking up extra shifts in hopes of paying for her abortion at 21 weeks?

These are the stories from real people who have contacted the Lilith Fund, a Texas-based non-profit that helps women find funding for safe, legal abortion care. If Texas passes a 20-week abortion ban, Texans like these women — women who are likely to have experienced “multiple disruptive events” in the past year, and who are likely to be victims of domestic violence, according to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute — would be criminals in the eyes of the state.

Lilith Fund president Amelia Long told RH Reality Check that a 20-week abortion ban “unfairly burdens people that are already experiencing some of the worst problems in their lives.”

Long says it’s not the case that women know they want or need an abortion and are “just putting it off and just being lazy about it,” as Perry and his anti-choice supporters seem to believe. “That is never the case with anyone we talk to.”

Instead, says Long, the Lilith Fund hears from women who are in abusive relationships, or from women who initially had a wanted pregnancy but “then something happens that’s a disaster for them,” making the prospect of pregnancy and parenthood untenable. Long characterized Perry’s position as “not acting with compassion.”

Indeed, how compassionate is it to suggest that an unemployed mother of two, a student looking for waitressing jobs who found herself pregnant at 20 weeks after an unsuccessful medical abortion, should pay a fine or serve jail time?

But that’s Rick Perry’s perspective: women who seek abortions after 20 weeks owe a debt to society that must be paid, somehow. It’ll be up to the Texas legislature to decide just how much these mothers, college students, high schoolers and victims of domestic violence owe.

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Image by DonkeyHotey released under a Creative Commons license.

What Will Texas’ New State-Funded Women’s Health Program Look Like?

10:47 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: iowapolitics/flickr)

(photo: iowapolitics/flickr)

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

What will it look like to have no federal Women’s Health Program in Texas? That’s what the state department of Health and Human Services began figuring out last week when Governor Rick Perry and Texas lawmakers opted to cut Planned Parenthood out of the Women’s Health Program in the state and instead move to a wholly state-funded system. The federal government has refused to continue the funding because Medicaid clients have, under federal law, the legal right to seek care wherever they choose, and the Obama administration considers the State of Texas to be violating federal law in their move to exclude Planned Parenthood.

A spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission says that despite the fact that the federal government funded 90 percent of the Women’s Health Program, the change-over process “should be pretty smooth,” as they’re not “building a new program” but instead are changing the funding source from federal to state monies. The process will involve moving about $30 million from existing state funds to a new Texas Women’s Health Program over the next several months. The HHSC will submit a phase-out plan to the feds by April 16th and begin notifying WHP participants that they’ll need to find new providers.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, that may include referring those clients to other Medicaid plans. If that happens, women may actually be able to continue getting care at Planned Parenthood, because Planned Parenthood is still considered a “qualified provider” outside the Women’s Health Program in Texas–but only for now. A spokesperson for Governor Rick Perry told RH Reality Check this week that Perry may seek to exclude Planned Parenthood from all Medicaid programs.

“Governor Perry believes abortion providers and their affiliates, like Planned Parenthood, have no business receiving taxpayer dollars,” said Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed, “and will support efforts to further accomplish that goal.”

Even if the HHSC doesn’t have to build a new program from scratch, they’ll still need new providers to come on board to accommodate the tens of thousands of women seen at Planned Parenthood clinics under the WHP. In 2010, for example, Planned Parenthood saw over 51,000 women who will now be funnelled to other doctors and clinics–out of a total of more than 105,000 clients. Read the rest of this entry →

Governor Perry, WHP Has Been a Lifeline for My Family. Why Are You Eliminating It?

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: talkradionews, flickr)

(photo: talkradionews, flickr)

Written by Rene Resendez for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. For all our coverage of the cuts to the Texas Women’s Health Program, click here.

In Texas, a state where more than one-quarter of women are uninsured, the Women’s Health Program provides preventive health care, including birth control and lifesaving cancer screenings, to more than 130,000 low-income women each year. The federal government, which covers 90 percent of the cost of this program, has made clear to Texas — and to all 50 states — that a rule excluding a comprehensive women’s health care provider like Planned Parenthood restricts the rights of patients and will not be allowed in the Medicaid program. However, Governor Rick Perry and Texas lawmakers are moving forward to disallow Planned Parenthood from participating in the WHP, today.

On March 8, in the midst of a budget deficit, Gov. Perry said the state would reject the nine- to-one federal matching dollars and instead find money in the state budget to pay for the WHP, although it is not clear where the money will be found. Already in the past few months, budget cuts passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Perry cut the state’s family planning program by more than two-thirds, taking away health care from another 160,000 women a year.

Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of care within the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program. More than 40 percent of the women who received vital health care through the Texas Women’s Health Program rely on a Planned Parenthood health center for their preventive health care.

My name is Rene, and I am graduate student. I am also on the WHP. I’ve been a WHP patient for five years. My mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was my age, while pregnant with my sister — this means I am at a 2-3 times increased risk for cervical cancer than other women. Because of my family history, I need to get a check-up every year.

My sister is a college student and also on the WHP. She needs contraception to keep her ovarian cysts under control. Because of the WHP and Planned Parenthood, we can focus on our studies instead of worrying about paying for contraception and cancer screenings. Read the rest of this entry →

Multi-Billion Dollar Budget Shortfall? Texas Legislators Call Abortion Bills An “Emergency”

8:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Across the state of Texas, public officials are watching the 82nd Legislature to find out when they’ll be forced to slash their budgets, and by how much, to accommodate a state financial shortfall that may be as much as $27 billion. Or, if we’re lucky, as little as $15 billion. Right now, the deficit is so huge and the books so complicated, nobody really knows what the final number will be.

In Dallas, where I live, the superintendent of schools recently told the Dallas Observer he may have to cut $260 million in funds for the education of area schoolchildren. He’s just got to wait and see what happens in the “lege.”

Meanwhile, down in Austin, the “lege” is dealing with an emergency. But it’s not a budget emergency. It’s not even a financial emergency at all. According to Governor Rick Perry, it’s an emergency that women in Texas are not asked to listen to a fetal heartbeat and have an abortion provider conduct a sonogram that they’ll describe to women in detail two hours before any abortion procedure.

Speaking before an anti-choice rally group at the Texas capitol on the 38th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Perry told protestors:

“We can’t afford to give up the good fight until the day Roe v. Wade is nothing but a shameful footnote in our nation’s history books.”

Anti-choice legislators, led by influential Republican senator Dan Patrick whose Harris County District 7 is one of the wealthiest in the state, have jumped at this chance to push a bevy of abortion-related legislation in Texas this session, with multiple bills calling for pre-procedure sonograms, more calling to eliminate public funding for abortion and also demands to eliminate all public funding to anyone affiliated with abortion providers themselves. Other bills support Texans’ right to buy controversial “Choose Life” license plates, like these available in New Jersey.

But it’s the emergency thing that gets pro-choice activists here. Gov. Perry’s “emergency” designation permits the bills to be heard in the first 60 days of the session—they can’t be heard so early without it. How can medically unnecessary sonograms be an emergency in the face of a multi-billion budget shortfall and economic crisis?

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