For those who have been following the governor’s campaign in Texas, you’ll know that Democrat Wendy Davis has Republican Greg Abbott very worried about the women’s health issue. She’s behind him in the polls, though not as much as you’d think in Texas, but the Abbott campaign reasonably worries that the get-out-the-vote push from Democrats will be aided by the relentless attacks by Republicans on women’s health care access, both in terms of shutting down abortion clinics and cutting government aid to prevent pregnancy. So Abbott wants to push back by trying to do that Republican thing where they pretend that abortion and contraception (the latter used by over 99% of women at some point) don’t really count as women’s health care, not really. From the AP piece:
Abbott on Wednesday called for increasing state funds for women’s health by $50 million. The longtime Texas attorney general also proposed expanded services for sexual assault victims and postpartum depression.
In an interview following the event at St. Josephs Women’s Medical Center, Abbott said he was open to finding a middle ground with Washington on Medicaid.
“We are open to negotiating for slices of block grants for targeting certain areas,” Abbott said. “The one-size-fits-all approach, mandated from Washington, D.C., and the Medicaid system, does not help Texas address the unique needs of the diverse population we have in this state.”
Gov. Rick Perry has refused to expand the Medicaid program, which would extend health coverage to more than 1 million residents.
Abbott’s Healthy Texans Plan would allocate $50 million to expand the health care program that provides treatment for young and middle-aged women who are low-income. The money would fund additional follow-up screenings for women who test positively for breast or cervical cancer.
Many folks are skeptical:
Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for Wendy Davis’ campaign, called Abbott’s proposals “hollow promises.”
“The fact that Greg Abbott would hold this media event at a women’s medical center at the same time he’s fighting in court to close down women’s health centers across the state would be ironic if it weren’t so harmful to Texas women,” Petkanas said in a statement.
Davis has made women’s health issues a centerpoint of her campaign, and Abbott’s plan puts the two candidates into a dialogue on the issue ahead of the campaign’s final two months. Davis has criticized the closing of 60 women’s health clinics, which provided abortions to women as well as broader women’s health services.
Abbott’s $50 million proposal is his clearest response yet to Davis’ policy push. A self-styled fiscal conservative, Abbott defended the spending despite his reputation.
“Because this is strategic spending on certain areas, it should reduce the cost of health care in the state in the long term,” he said in an interview.
It’s unclear if this $50 million will be enough to restore the lost services, much less put women on better footing than they were before. But as long as Abbott promises to continue blocking the Medicaid expansion, what we do know is that he’s deliberately keeping as many Texans, particularly low income women, uninsured as possible. And it’s not to save money, as the state chunk of the Medicaid expansion is basically nothing:
If Abbott really gave two shits about women’s health, he’d embrace the Medicaid expansion, which would likely save money in the long run by making sure that women get preventive care. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to put a young woman on Medicaid now and make sure she has regular contraception access than to wait until she gets pregnant and then put her on Medicaid, which she only became eligible for because of her pregnancy. All this wiggling around Abbott is doing is an attempt to cut off as many people as possible from health care without being caught doing so.
But hey, numbers tend to cause people to tune out and start thinking of other stuff. But just in case you want a visual representation of how this is just a bunch of hand-waving that has nothing to do with what women actually want and need, here is a photo of the press conference.
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) September 10, 2014
They managed to get a couple of women standing around in the margins, but that picture otherwise sums it up: A bunch of old guys making a bunch of promises while actually trying to find a way to screw you over behind your back.