Other Voices

Texas women have been hurt by cuts in Planned Parenthood

I read with interest state Sen. Konni Burton’s Aug. 16 Star-Telegram commentary (“Planned Parenthood is not the key to women’s health in Texas”) and found the piece to be so riddled with half-truths and misinformation that I felt compelled to respond.

I also feel compelled to begin with this: Planned Parenthood was a lifeline for me many years ago when I was an uninsured teenaged mother struggling financially.

Had Planned Parenthood not been there for me, I’d not have had access to basic health screenings and contraceptive care.

As a 19-year-old mother trying to work my way up and out of poverty, an unplanned second pregnancy would have likely derailed me.

My story is not unique. Scores of Texas women can tell a similar story.

Even more compelling are the stories of women whose cancers would have otherwise gone undiagnosed and untreated were it not for care from Planned Parenthood.

The very sad truth is that many who serve in elected office fail to comprehend (or, more likely, willingly ignore) that Planned Parenthood is the primary care physician, the go-to contraceptive resource and the first and last hope for healthcare for so many women today, just as it was for me 30 years ago.

Making Planned Parenthood the “bogeyman” because abortion care comprises 3 percent of its services, and attempting to defund it in order to score political points, not only represents demagoguery of the worst kind, it also threatens to endanger the health of countless women.

The truth is that no state or federal funds are provided to Planned Parenthood for abortion care in Texas.

In spite of that, years of hostile legislative policies aimed at closing off funds to Planned Parenthood have left tens of thousands of Texas women without access to cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests and other preventative care.

A series of recent studies have detailed the real-world impact of Texas’ devastating budget cuts and funding schemes that blocked care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas found that 55 percent of Texas women now report at least one barrier to accessing reproductive healthcare, including life-saving cancer screenings or family planning services.

And, with these barriers in place, the Health and Human Services Commission estimated that an additional 23,760 babies would be born under Medicaid in 2014-15, with a projected cost of $136 million in state dollars from 2013 through 2015.

So not only do Texas women pay the price, Texas taxpayers pay up as well.

To say that women can just seek care elsewhere is a flagrant denial of reality.

Though the coverage purportedly continues, “that may not mean much if you look at the overall picture” said Jose E. Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, in a May 11, 2011, Huffington Post article.

He added: “… we can’t say in good conscience that Federally Qualified Health Centers have the capacity to take these women in.”

The fact is, they do not. And scores of low-income Texas women are left suffering the consequences.

To cite just one example, according to the Department of State Health Services, the state’s budget for reproductive health and family planning for uninsured, low-income women served just 47,332 clients in 2012, a drastic 77 percent decrease from the 202,968 clients served in 2011.

The cumulative impacts of slashing state support for the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood are dramatic, and they are real.

And real Texas women, far removed from the political games played in the Texas Capitol, have been and will continue to bear the costs of right-wing politicians who will do whatever it takes to feed red meat to their base, women’s health be damned.

Former Sen. Wendy Davis served parts of Fort Worth and Northeast Tarrant County in the Texas Senate from 2009 through 2014.