Conservative lawmakers in Texas worked to chip away at Planned Parenthood’s funding, creating a “tiered priority system” that ensured Planned Parenthood clinics would be the last to receive any Title X funding. But when faced with renewing the Women’s Health Program, which funds preventive care for low-income women using federal and state money, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials warned Texas that their plan to zero out Planned Parenthood violated the Social Security Act. And if Texas blacklisted Planned Parenthood, then HHS would cut off almost $40 million in Medicaid funds for Texas.
But Texas Health Commissioner Tom Suehs did just that, finalizing the push to defund Planned Parenthood. Last month, he signed a rule that “formally bans Planned Parenthood clinics and other ‘affiliates of abortion providers’” from receiving funds from the joint state-federal Women’s Health Program (WHP) — losing $9 from the federal government for every $1 Texas put into the program.
“I just got fed up,” [Marcia] Ball said. “I suspected there were many people like me, including Christians and people of all ages, who think it’s a mistake to defund low-income women’s basic health care. All this defunding for political gain is hurting hundreds of thousands of low-income women.”
The rally drew progressive political activists, local musicians, state representatives and women’s health clinic employees. Passing cars honked in support as protesters held up signs with slogans such as “Don’t Mess with Texas Women” and “I’m a Christian and I Believe in Science, Birth Control, and Tolerance.”
“I’ve been protesting [for women’s rights] since the ’60s and ’70s, when I was at UT,” said Anita Quintanilla. “I thought by the ‘80s, we wouldn’t have to be protesting for women’s rights. I have a 21-year-old daughter, and I hoped she wouldn’t have to worry about women’s rights. I’m fighting for her.” [...]
State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, was among those who helped Ball with the rally.
“This will definitely send a signal to members of the Legislature and Congress that it’s going to be hard to pass these cuts and policy changes in the future without facing opposition from women and their friends,” Naishtat said.
A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) laid the blame at the feet of the Obama administration. “Although federal law allows the states to set the criteria for qualified providers in Medicaid programs, now the Obama Administration is holding the WHP hostage because Texas state law does not fit its pro-abortion agenda,” the spokeswoman said. Other conservatives have suggested that if Planned Parenthood really cared about women’s health, then it would leave WHP so the program could continue providing health care through other providers.
But it’s the poor women of Texas, at risk of losing their access to affordable health care, who really will suffer without this program. “Texas Republicans never miss an opportunity to throw the most vulnerable Texans under the bus so that they can pick a fight with the federal government,” said Rebecca Acuña, a spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party.