Last March, Republican lawmakers in Texas blocked funding for the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics, mandating that the organizations in the Texas’ Women’s Health Program shouldn’t receive federal funds because they are “affiliated” with an abortion provider. Despite the fact that abortion services contribute to just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s nationwide health services, and federal funding isn’t used to finance that small percentage, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) slashed the Texas Women’s Health Program’s funds by 90 percent.
Months later, the consequences of those deep cuts extend far beyond Planned Parenthood itself. The Texas Observer notes that clinics in rural areas have been forced to suspend the family planning services they used to provide for low-income women, many of whom can’t otherwise afford oral contraceptives, pregnancy tests, pap smears, or screening for sexually transmitted diseases:
In the year since deep cuts to family planning funding took effect, the impact has become apparent. An Observer review of state records has found that 146 clinics have lost state funds, clumped mainly in the Panhandle, Central Texas and on the border with Mexico. More than 60 of those clinics have closed their doors forever. The number of organizations that help poor women plan pregnancy has shrunk by almost half. As in San Saba, low-income women in many areas of Texas now face a long drive, or worse, lack of access to birth control and health screenings.
In fact, of the more than 60 clinics that have closed across Texas, only 12 were run by Planned Parenthood. Dozens of other clinics unconnected to Planned Parenthood nonetheless lost state funds and have closed, leaving low-income women in wide swaths of the state without access to contraception. [...]
Indeed, the bipartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated that last year’s cuts would lead to more than 250,000 women losing services and 20,000 additional births covered by Medicaid. When The Texas Observer asked providers what they thought about the cuts, several mentioned the same phrase. They said in hoping to punish Planned Parenthood, politicians had gone too far, with devastating consequences for women’s health. Lawmakers, they said, had thrown the “baby out with the bath water.”
Among the health clinics that have managed to remain open, many have been forced to contract their geographic range, limiting services to a smaller population of Texas women. Regardless of affiliation to Planned Parenthood, limiting health clinics’ ability to provide critical health services to low-income women does not have the intended consequence of targeting abortion providers. Rather, Perry’s drastic cuts to the Women’s Health Program are preventing struggling women from getting access to the care they need.
Throughout the political battles over the War on Women, Planned Parenthood has become a buzzword for anti-choice Republicans who seek to equate Planned Parenthood clinics with death and destruction. However, the real destruction is wreaked when overarching, politically-motivated attacks on women’s health providers leave low-income women with no affordable contraceptive options, no available STI tests, no regular cancer screenings, and no control over their reproductive health.