The State of Texas plans to move forward with a wholly remade women's health program on November 1 that excludes Planned Parenthood's clinics from receiving state funds, prohibits doctors from discussing abortion with patients and refuses health services entirely if the patient happens to be pregnant.
In doing so, Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican-controlled Texas legislature will forgo nearly $40 million in federal assistance, placing the program's financial burden upon Texas taxpayers instead, all because federal law that requires states not discriminate against health providers when distributing federal funds.
State Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, said at a public hearing on Tuesday that the plan's current wording would exclude pregnant women from seeking care at one of the state-funded clinics. The state's actual proposal, however, says that those same women would likely still be eligible for Medicare, although that program charges significantly more than Planned Parenthood for comprehensive checkups and initially only offers reimbursements to new applicants.
Making matters worse, the Kaiser Health Foundation says the state of Texas has the most restrictive Medicaid program in the country, requiring parents of a family of three make no more than $188 a month in order to qualify. And if that weren't bleak enough, only 31 percent of Texas doctors accept Medicaid -- a number that's been shrinking dramatically in recent years, according to a recent survey by the Texas Medical Association.
“The Texas I used to live in was compassionate and kind and politicians were not willing to literally put women’s lives at stake for the sake of their own self promotion,” one woman said during Tuesday's hearing, according to The Dallas Morning News. “So from now on, I might as well just say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just a temporary Texan until I can find someplace more American to live.'"
Planned Parenthood said Tuesday that it asked a federal court to overturn an earlier ruling that allowed Texas to chop the group's clinics from its women's health program, arguing that its activities are constitutionally protected and the state is infringing on the nonprofit's free speech rights.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas has 64 clinics operating across the state today, many of which will be shut down if it is excluded from the women's health program. None of them provide abortion services, but they do offer referrals if a patient inquires.
Even though the new women's health program will send pregnant applicants to Medicare, that program as well is being restricted by the lone star state, with Gov. Perry vowing to refuse more than $164 billion in federal aid intended to expand coverage for low-income people.
Perry's act of political defiance will ultimately deny coverage to more than 1.2 million low-income Texans who would otherwise be eligible under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Despite the state's stronger than expected economic recovery, The Houston Chronicle noted that 2010 census data shows that 42 percent of single moms in Texas live in poverty, well above the national poverty rate (PDF) of 15.1 percent. According to the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, poverty during pregnancy is considered to be a leading factor contributing to children being born with severe learning difficulties and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is linked to a continuation of poverty later in life.
This video is from KXAN in Austin, broadcast Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.
Photo: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com.