Texas refuses federal money for women, plans to fund care itself
UTPA senior Julisa McCoy is one of the 130,000 Texas women who are at risk of losing their access to health care because of a showdown over funding for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
As a student, McCoy was able to afford preventative health care from Planned Parenthood under the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP).
“I’ve been going for the last four years just to make sure I’m good and healthy,” McCoy said. The sociology major receives routine checkups that include screenings for cancer, heart conditions and diabetes.
Gov. Rick Perry enacted a law earlier this month that disqualified Planned Parenthood from participating in WHP because some of its clinics provide abortions, although Texas law already prohibits taxpayer money going to organizations that perform the operation.
The new law will cut off funding to clinics that have any affiliation to an abortion provider, whether it is a shared name, employee or board member.
As a result of the law, the federal government withdrew $40 million that would have funded the program, saying the Texas law violates edicaid regulations that allow women to choose their health care provider.
The $40 million hole will leave the program, which serves 15,000 women in Hidalgo and Starr counties, without 90 percent of its operating funds, according to Planned Parenthood official Kathryn Hearn.
“There’s no other group, probably, that this will affect more than UT Pan Am women,” said Hearn, who is the Community Service Director for the counties. “They come to Planned Parenthood, they are uninsured, they are maybe working only a part-time job and cannot afford health insurance or their employer does not offer part-time employee health benefits, and this is really their only access to care.”
Before McCoy was going to Planned Parenthood and in the WHP, she said she wouldn’t have been able to afford basic health care services.
“Everywhere I went, it was $200, $300 minimum just to get a check-up,” said McCoy, who has been a Planned Parenthood patient for four years. “I live on my own, so I can’t afford to dip into my rent funds or my grocery funds.”
SECOND TIME AROUND
The dispute and loss of funding came on top of a major cut to family planning by the Texas legislature last year, when it was slashed by two-thirds, leaving more than 360,000 women without access to lifesaving care. The money was diverted to other causes, including autism awareness and early childhood programs.
When state cuts to family planning took effect, the Hidalgo County network lost a $3.1 million contract, was forced to lay off half its staff and shut down four of its eight facilities.
For McCoy, finding money for women’s health now when it was already reduced last year doesn’t make much sense.
“(Perry’s) response was, ‘Well, we’ll find the money somewhere.’ Again, just insanity,” she said. “Why, when you just enacted a fiscal decision that stands counter to your new position of trying to fund the Texas Women’s Health Program? It makes you wonder, do they realize what they’re talking about?”
Jerry Joule, campus minister at Baptist Student Ministry, views the governor’s invocation of a watershed issue like abortion as an appeal to religious constituents, but it’s one that he’s not buying into.
“Texas is a very evangelical conservative state, and any move that supports an abortion clinic goes very badly for Republicans on the national stage,” Joule said. “I think he was making a political move rather than a move in the best interest of the state.”
Political science professor Edward Jackson, who serves as adviser for the Republicans at UTPA, doesn’t want Perry’s political affiliation to reflect badly on other Texas Republicans.
“Look, Rick Perry made a mistake and, please, I don’t want anyone to look at Rick Perry and say he is indicative of Republican thinking, because he’s not,” said Jackson, adding that only a few Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas provide abortions. “The guy made a tremendous blunder. What’s the point of leaving them out of any support you’re going to get for women’s health?”
Texas Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the governor’s actions were pure politics and asked people that disagree with Perry to speak out.
“It’s really amazing to me that we have public officials who want to please the minority by taking their views and pushing those views and ideology,” Hinojosa said. “The majority needs to start fighting back and pushing back.”
Hearn said Planned Parenthood is pushing back. They collected 95,000 emails and letters in favor of the program which they plan to deliver to the Capitol in the next two weeks. They’re also continuing to raise awareness about the lack of funding.
“Men have a vested interest in this as well. The more people who can speak out about this and let the governor know the wishes and the will of the people of Texas, the more likely it is that Planned Parenthood will still be included in this program,” she said.
For the time being, McCoy, who has spoken at rallies supporting the program in McAllen and Austin, is hoping that Texans become aware that this issue exists and voice their opinions to lawmakers.
“I’m optimistic yet pessimistic at the same time, but I think a lot of people still just don’t know about it or don’t really comprehend the risks that are involved…” the 23-year-old said. “There are just so many consequences to this aside from the obvious, that women’s lives and livelihoods are being threatened and put at risk. It’s just unbelievable the effects this will have.”
Karen Antonacci contributed to this report.