Planned Parenthood: Punched in the Uterus by Misguided Texas Senate

A Texas Senate subcommittee wrangled the vulvas of Texas women into a chokehold yesterday with its latest assault on Planned Parenthood. Republican Senator Robert Deuell, who is a physician, introduced a bill to a three-member subcommittee that bans Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid Women's Health Program. The program provides low-income women with basic health care: health screenings, family planning exams and birth control. The bill passed, and now thousands of women statewide are one step closer to disease and unwanted pregnancies.

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider for the Women's Health Program, through which about 90,000 Texas women receive the program's services, according to Planned Parenthood's press release. Houston's seven centers represent the state's area of highest demand.

"If you cut out Planned Parenthood, you're lopping off basic health care for all these women," Rochelle Tafolla, of Planned Parenthood of Houston & Southeast Texas, tells Hair Balls. "They have to figure out where else they'll go for this care."

Planned Parenthood is one of the only centers tailor-made to offer the services in the program. In fact, Planned Parenthood was specifically written into the Medicaid waiver program as being allowed to participate, said Tafolla. Now, the Senate is trying to backtrack. "If Planned Parenthood litigates against the ban on Planned Parenthood participating, the bill specifically requires that Texas discontinue the entire program," the press release said.

The ludicrous bill is especially frustrating since written by a physician. Should Planned Parenthood be stripped of funding to provide women with free condoms, an annual family planning exam and pap smear, STI screenings, pregnancy tests and a host of contraceptive methods, it stands to reason that these same low-income women on Medicaid will have more babies. Births are paid for in full by Medicaid, and each birth costs $15,000. The Women's Health Program costs $300-$500 per woman.

We're pretty sure doctors are required to take a math class or two.

"It's terrible public policy and public health policy," Tafolla said. "As a physician, you should know that you're going to shut down a program that's helping women stay healthy and helping the state save money. It doesn't make any sense."

Like every other vicious attack on Planned Parenthood recently, this one is propelled by a conservative outcry against abortion. But under law, Planned Parenthood never uses state or federal funds for abortions. "They're not even thinking about women," Tafolla said. "They're thinking about politics."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mandy Oaklander
Contact: Mandy Oaklander