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A Growing Catastrophe for Texas Women Shows the Need for Change

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 12.13.13

Two new articles illustrate the growing catastrophe for Texas women’s health – one that is only expanding by the day due to years of politically-motivated attacks on basic women’s health care.  These stories show it is time for a change in Texas, where politicians have enacted a growing number of deeply unpopular restrictions on women’s health, leading to an all-out and systematic dismantling of women's access to health care.

An article today in the Texas Tribune and New York Times confirms what many experts warned would happen:  that thousands of women lost access to birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings and well-woman exams after the state banned Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP).  This is on top of the more than 155,000 women who the Austin Chronicle has reported lost access to birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings and well-woman exams when the state slashed funding for a separate women’s health program by two-thirds and made health centers like Planned Parenthood ineligible from that program in 2011. Meanwhile, yesterday the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported that a record number of Texans urged the Department of State Health Services to fulfill their mission to protect the health and safety of Texas women by allowing existing licensed health centers that provide abortion to be “grandfathered” into new onerous restrictions for abortion providers developed as a result of the legislation passed this summer during a series of special legislative sessions (this is the same legislation that also imposed a hospital staff privileges restriction — currently in effect — that is projected to block one in three women from accessing safe and legal abortion).   

In response to the news out of Texas today, Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards issued the following statement:

“Any one of the restrictions passed in the last several years would be bad, but taken together, we are witnessing a catastrophe for Texas women.  Texas needs new leaders who value women’s health, rather than politicians who are willing to throw women and their access to health care overboard to score political points.  That’s why they will reject Greg Abbott, who has been one of the leading advocates for these failed policies. As the report by the Chronicle and the Express-News confirms, restrictions on safe and legal abortion remain deeply unpopular with Texans.  Texans will not tolerate more of the same dangerous attacks on women’s health from their next governor.”         

In 2012, Planned Parenthood served approximately 48,000 women through a Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program, providing cancer screenings, birth control and other preventive care for low-income and uninsured Texans.  Since the state created a whole new program solely to block women enrolled in the program from using Planned Parenthood’s health centers, the Tribune and Times report that birth control services declined by 38 percent and the number of well woman exams decreased by 23 percent overall.

Despite promises from state officials that women’s health needs would be met, these findings show Texas lawmakers made policy decisions that have ended access to health care for staggering numbers of women.  Some regions where women were previously served by Planned Parenthood health centers saw the sharpest decline, including Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley, where hormonal contraceptive services for women enrolled in the program decreased by 81 percent. Urban areas where Planned Parenthood health centers are located also saw a significant decline—such as Harris County, where hormonal birth control services are down by more than 50 percent.  You can read the full piece from the New York Times and Texas Tribune, including a county-by-county analysis of the drop in health care services, here: http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/13/claims-drop-under-state-run-womens-health-program/

The crisis facing Texas women is not just about the women who relied on this one program – it’s the combined effect of numerous bad policies that have worked together to systematically deny access to medical care to Texas women in need, as well as the devastation of restrictions still to come.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News yesterday, in a historic outpouring of public outrage over proposed regulations, Planned Parenthood, along with 19,100 Texans, urged the Department of State Health Services to fulfill their mission to protect the health and safety of Texas women and allow existing licensed health centers that provide abortion to be “grandfathered” into requirements that abortion only be available to women in health centers with hospital-style operating rooms – restrictions that could force all but fewer than eight health centers providing abortion to close their doors. 

These restrictions will do nothing to protect women’s health and safety, which is why doctors, leading medical groups, and Texans rose up this summer to oppose them — 6,000 people rallied at the capitol, 2,000 marched when the bill passed, 34,000 letters were sent to legislators and more than 2,300 people submitted testimony against the abortion restrictions proposed by legislation this summer. 

But the Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly determined to interpret that legislation as strictly as possible, and so now after Texas women have systematically been denied access to preventive health care including birth control, these restrictions will deny them access to safe, legal abortion.  You can read the full piece from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News here: http://www.expressnews.com/news/politics/article/19-000-weigh-in-on-new-abortion-rule-5057062.php?t=ac338c3adfd95dc057

Despite years of these attacks on Texas women, Planned Parenthood continues to serve women throughout the state at its nearly 50 Texas health centers.

If you are a member of the media and would like to speak with a Planned Parenthood Votes representative about the proposal, please contact our media office at 212-261-4433 or media.office@ppfa.org.

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