A SYTYCB entry
A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction that was preventing the state of Texas from cutting funding to Planned Parenthood as a part of the Women’s Health Program. In other words, Texas may now return to what has become business as usual in the attack on reproductive health.
As a person with a uterus in Texas, 2011 was a particularly harrowing year for me. I saw the family planning budget slashed not once, but seven times, dropping from over $100 million to a mere $38 million for 2012-2013. The legislature also felt it was necessary to pass legislation requiring me to undergo a transvaginal sonogram and then wait 24 hours before having an abortion. (This was in addition to existing legislation from 2003 that requires doctors to misinform me about the “link” between abortion and breast cancer.) As if these weren’t enough to leave me quaking in my Doc Martens, Rick Perry took 2011 as an opportunity to prove his willingness to stick it to Planned Parenthood.
Over 130,000 women in Texas gained access to preventative sexual healthcare through a program called the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. When Perry and the GOP majority in Austin set their sights on Planned Parenthood, these were the Texans who stood to lose the most. Almost half of those enrolled in the WHP used Planned Parenthood as their provider for medical care.
The state decided to block Planned Parenthood from the program based on the organization’s support of abortion as a part of reproductive health. According to the federal government this decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the WHP violated federal Medicaid requirements. Where funding was once 9 federal dollars per every dollar of state money, this violation resulted in a complete withdrawal of federal funds. In a legislative session that saw fit to cut $5.4 billion from public education in order to balance the state budget, I was nothing if not cynical when Rick Perry claimed we could handle the full cost of the program without losing anything in quality and quantity of service to Texans in need of reproductive healthcare.
Planned Parenthood responded to the exclusion by suing on the basis of freedom of speech. This suit resulted in the injunction that prevented the state of Texas from excluding the organization from the WHP until October, when the trail will take place. That was, until today.
Now those women who rely on the WHP and Planned Parenthood to get access to pap smears and other preventative sexual health services will have to find a new place to go. What’s more, should the new legislative session in 2013 resemble its predecessor, these women will have to rely on legislators who have already proven that they do not value family planning services to provide a budget with space to fund this program and fill the void left by a lack of federal money.
This is yet another conversation about reproductive health that seems entirely out of place for 2012. In a year that has brought us back to debating contraceptives as health care, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. But I can’t help it. I especially can’t help becoming frustrated when the law in question is based on a false understanding of funding for abortion services.
Like so many other bills introduced in the last two years at both the state and the national level, this law is based on the idea that taxpayer money shouldn’t fund abortion. The problem with this and all other legislation like it is that federal money already doesn’t. It hasn’t gone to fund abortion services since the 1970′s. I’m just going to say this again, thought I know I may be preaching to the choir: Taxpayer money has not gone to abortion services since the 1970′s. So why is everyone in such a hurry to defund Planned Parenthood on the basis that their taxes shouldn’t pay for abortions?
But here lies the rub. This is the thing that just cuts me to the core when I think about those people who gained access to compassionate, affordable sexual health care at Planned Parenthood clinics across Texas through the Women’s Health Program. Rick Perry did take a “righteous stance,” to quote one facebook user who praised his refusal to back down in the face of losing federal funding. He certainly did take a clear stand on the issue of Planned Parenthood as a healthcare provider in Texas. It was just completely unnecessary and redundant for him to do so.
All of these continuing attacks on Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services claim to be about women’s health and religious freedom. But those taxpayers who have a moral opposition to allowing government money to support abortion access have already won – and they did it almost forty years ago. The point, as they say, is moot.
Every person, in Texas and across the country, who has lost access to reproductive healthcare due to the argument that taxpayer money shouldn’t fund abortions is losing in the hopes of the GOP’s political gain. These people, like the 130,000 women in Texas, are political collateral that the conservative right is completely comfortable placing in harms way. This is not about taxes funding abortions. If it was, we wouldn’t be having these conversations. Instead, it is about deciding that women’s health is political pawn.
The next three months could not be more important to women. This is especially so for women in Texas and other states with legislatures that are committed to playing politics with women’s health. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to vote for people who will stand up for us instead of trampling on us and our access to healthcare.
The injunction allowed some people like me to briefly forget the nightmare of anti-choice legislation in my state. Today’s decision by the federal appeals court brought me, jarringly, back to reality. There are 76 days until the election on November 6th. It’s time to get back to work.