Texas Women’s Health Program provides basic services, cancer screenings and contraceptives to approximately 130,000 low-income women. However the women it serves have now become victims in the ongoing battle between conservative republicans in Texas and the Federal government over abortion.
The Texas law already barred funding from centers that performed abortions, but now extends to any facility with ties to a provider by name, affiliation or employee. In retaliation, the Federal government has now cut all funding to Texas for these services.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the end to a federal waiver that granted the state funds.
About the move she said, “They [Texas lawmakers] knew … they are not allowed to deny women the right to choose,” Sebelius said. “Women would be losing their doctor, their medical home, their choice.”
On a national scale lawmakers’ target is Title X, a Federal program that ensures access to family planning services for low income or uninsured individuals, including
- Breast and pelvic examinations
- Breast and cervical cancer screening according to nationally recognized standards of care
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention education
- Testing and referral
- Pregnancy diagnosis and counseling
Title X does not provide funding for abortions.
Although there is no clear winner in this Federal-State stand off, the losers are clear—and abundant. An article in the New York Times published last week estimates that Title X provides services to over 5 million low-income patients. The article also provides estimates that the services prevent over 1 million unintended pregnancies a year and prevents 400,000 abortions. Title X is in the cross hairs because of its affiliation with Planned Parenthood, which receives about one third of its budget.
This is another clash in the so-called War on Women taking place across the country. A slew of seemingly archaic legislation has arisen across various states, each a little less believable than the last.
In what opponents are christening as the equivalent of state sponsored rape, Virginia recently attempted to pass legislation requiring an ultra sound using a vaginal probe for a woman seeking an abortion. Due to backlash the manner in which the ultra sound is conducted changed, but not the intent.
In the feud over abortion, it is the women who need these services in jeopardy. Fewer clinics mean a longer wait time and less flexibility, which is a luxury not afforded to many low-income women. This can lead to more costly health problems down the line if patients are not getting the screenings need to detect dangerous medical conditions like cancer.
Although Title X does not provide funding for abortion, and only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activities include abortion, both programs are targeted by Republicans and conservatives. There seems to be a misconception about the services that Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers provide, as Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) confidently declared that providing abortions was “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”
Later, when he came under fire for making up his statistic, he defended himself by saying that it wasn’t intended to be a factual statement. This excuse is comforting coming from a member of the United States Senate while he was testifying on the floor. The Senator also suggested to get your yearly pap smear at Walgreens.
This type of blatant misrepresentation is dangerous—and costly to women everywhere. Less services for low-income women will be costly in the future in both money and lives. Screenings that can detect cervical and breast cancer, HPV and STD tests and medical advice are the lifeblood of women’s health services—not abortions. Yet it is those services that will be cut in the war of the ideologies, leaving millions of women out of service or waiting months to receive them.