Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Women’s Health Care in Texas

I got my knickers in a twist today when I read an op-ed in the Austin American Statesman, from 5 Texas legislators(1) that 130,000 low-income Texas women will lose their health care on March 15, because Rick Perry won't accept Federal money meant for breast, cervical, & HIV screenings, and birth control.

Won't accept it because the medical care workers who do the screenings might possibly work for, or refer a patient to, a clinic (say, Planned Parenthood) that also provides abortions, a clinic that, BY STATE LAW, -- just like all clinics that provide abortions in Texas -- cannot accept any State funds for abortion services. In addition, no federal money under this program can be used to fund abortions.

The Federal government wants to give Texas this money for women’s health care, and it says Texas, by enacting a rule that makes accepting the Federal money a no-no, is in direct violation of Medicaid rules.

Perry essentially says, TOO MoFo BAD! Perry says he just can’t take that Federal money, that Texans love life too much -- the health of Texas women be damned!

Right next to the 5-Legislator article (our local daily paper is trying to be fair and balanced) is an op-ed by Rick Perry saying that the whole thing is Obama's fault because Obama cancelled the fund for the wellness program! Talk about SPIN. Well, maybe the legislators are too tactful to say it, but since my knickers are twisted, I will call it what it is: LYING.

As the 5 Texas legislators wrote: "The governor (Perry) will spin this as Washington's fault. But, let's examine the Governor's track record. Perry boasted on the campaign trail about eliminating two-thirds of the funding for women's health last (legislative) session. According to state health experts, this eliminates access to health care screenings and birth control for nearly 300,000 (women).” Then they added, “The (new) rule adopted by the health agency (on Feb.23) adds 130,000 more women to this number."

Perry says, “Because Texas refuses to fund abortion providers and their affiliates, (my emphasis) the federal government has announced that it will cancel the Women’s Health Program.” (again, my emphasis.) The program is not cancelled, it is alive and well in other states.

Perry’s actions and his lies to defend his actions are unacceptable to this Texan. In his article, Perry states, “Texas is an easy target for such attacks because we value life and have worked hard to preserve and protect its sanctity over the years.” If we value life so much, isn’t it fascinating that Texas leads the nation in the number of prisoners executed, the number of teen pregnancies, the number of uninsured citizens, #7 in the number of students who don’t finish high school(2), and is fourth in the Nation, after California, New York, and Florida in the number of homeless: homeless families, homeless veterans, and homeless mentally-ill people?(3)

How about the fact that from 2007 to 2010 (under Perry’s watch – remember all those jobs Perry says he created?), the number of minimum wage workers in Texas rose from 221,000 to 550,000, an increase of nearly 150 percent, and that the average salary of those jobs is $10,100 per year?(4) That is, $10,100 a year with no benefits, i.e., healthcare.

Yes, in Texas, we value the sanctity of life as long as that life is in a womb. When that fetus emerges as a human baby in Texas, if it is not born into a financially-secure family, its life becomes a lot less exciting to our Governor and our ruling party. By refusing this funding for Women’s Health Care, Rick Perry has made sure that that baby’s early life and childhood will be even harder. It takes a healthy Mother to provide for a healthy child. A Mother who will probably not want to become pregnant again for a while, but who has no access to birth control. That $10,100 a year, doesn’t stretch very far -- unless the $10,000 is coming from us Texans to pay for one month of Rick Perry’s rent, while he draws not only his salary, but also his retirement pay from the great State of Texas.

25% of Texas women currently are uninsured. (National average is 16.3%). The National Cancer Institute says that Texas has the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the USA. Before Perry turned off the spigot, the Medicaid Women's Health program saved Texas taxpayers over $40 million dollars a year by helping keep women healthy, helping them space their children, and helping them detect diseases before they became more costly and deadly.(5)

Now who do these women turn to? They don’t have access to screenings, health care, or birth control. As the 5 legislators said in ending their op-ed article, “This isn’t about Texas versus Washington; this is about Perry versus low-income women.”

Are your knickers now twisted, too? I hope so.

(1) Elliott Naishtat, Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Mark Strama, Donna Howard, Austin American Statesman, March 6, 2012

(2) http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2010/feb/05/bill-white/texas-has-43rd-best-graduation-rate-united-states/

(3) http://www.endhomelessness.org

(4) Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/

(5) The Texas “Alternatives To Abortion” Program, March 2011 http://www.prochoicetexas.org/assets/files/alttoabortionbadpolicy311.

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