Saturday, June 6, 2015

Republican Lawmakers Continue Efforts To Kill Planned Parenthood

Four years after making deep budget cuts specifically targeted to kill Planned Parenthood, and two years after imposing stringent abortion restrictions, also targeted to kill Planned Parenthood, Republicans continued efforts of past legislative sessions to cut Planned Parenthood out of receiving state health care dollars for breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Four years ago, Republicans who controlled the 2011 82nd Legislature made deep cuts to women’s health funding in that year's budget bill. Those cuts resulted in thousands of women losing preventative and contraceptive services and the closure of dozens of clinics.  In the 2011 Texas legislative session, Republican lawmakers 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, Texas slashed the Women’s Health Program’s funds by 90 percent.

In March 2012, the federal government cut off funds to Texas’ Women’s Health Program because the state chose to exclude abortion providers from the program in violation of federal law. Ousting Planned Parenthood from the joint state-federal Medicaid Women’s Health Program cost the state a 9 to 1 dollar match from the federal government. But even without federal funds, which made up 90 percent of the funding, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) issued directives for the state to fund the Women’s Health Program on its own.

Lacking federal funding, Perry directed the executive commissioner of the state’s Health and Human Services department to cut another $40.1 million in department services. The $40.1 million spending reduction piled on top of the $73 million 2011 82nd Legislature lawmakers had already stripped from the state’s family planning services budget. Even before Texas decided to ban Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program, women’s clinics around the state were already being forced to greatly reduce services or shut their doors entirely.

The consequences of those deep cuts extended far beyond Republican budget cutting efforts directed toward killing Planned Parenthood itself.  In the fall of 2012, the Texas Observer noted the consequences of those deep cuts included clinics in rural areas being forced to suspend health care services they had provided for low-income women, many of whom can’t otherwise afford contraceptives, pregnancy tests, pap smears, or screening for sexually transmitted diseases:
In time 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 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 just Planned Parenthood. Rather, drastic cuts to the Women’s Health Program are preventing struggling women from getting access to the care they need.

Republicans who controlled the 2013 83rd Legislature passed the most restrictive abortion law in recent history, which forced half the state’s abortion clinics to close. The measure, passed in a special summer legislative session, bans abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, mandates abortion clinics become ambulatory surgical centers, tightens usage guidelines for the drug RU486 and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they're providing such services. (See Texas Tribune June 9, 2015 stories: 5th Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Texas' Abortion Restrictions, Remaining Abortion Clinic Locations, Texas Abortion Law Up For Supreme Court Review, and UPDATED June 29, 2015 - Supreme Court Stays Texas Abortion Clinic Law Ruling From 5th Circuit.)

Even after the four year long effort to kill Planned Parenthood, some Planned Parenthood affiliates continued to receive funding from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which is primarily funded by federal money. In fiscal year 2014, funding for the program included $7.8 million in federal funds and $2.4 million in state funds. The legislative agenda for the 2015 84th Legislature was to effectively block Planned Parenthood from receiving those program dollars.

Republicans were successful in edging Planned Parenthood out of receiving Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program funds, which provides cancer screenings for uninsured women. That was the last stream of federal/state funding any Planned Parenthood clinics received, even though the majority of program funding was from federal dollars. House and Senate SB1 budget writers approved a provision in joint committee action to make it more difficult for Planned Parenthood to qualify to share Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program funding.

More background: Women in Texas Losing Options for Health Care

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