Today Governor Greg Abbott and the state of Texas took final action to try to block Medicaid patients from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood, including birth control, cancer screenings, and HIV tests. With this action, the state is doubling down on reckless policies that have been absolutely devastating for Texas women.
Planned Parenthood continues to serve Medicaid patients at its health centers in Texas and will seek a preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients.
“This is not over, and we will leave no stone unturned to protect access to care.”
– Yvonne Gutierrez, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
How This Move Hurts Texas Women
Each year, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas care for nearly 11,000 patients through Medicaid. These are people who have very low incomes or no health insurance, and often have nowhere else to turn for care — and they are the people whose care would be blocked by today’s devastating news.
The move to block these patients from care particularly hurts rural women and women of color. Here’s why:
In Texas, nearly half of Planned Parenthood health centers serve underserved patient communities (which are in health professional shortage areas, medically underserved areas or rural areas).
It is well documented that people of color in the United States are disproportionately unable to access quality health care due to the intersection of racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and and other systemic barriers, making them more likely to rely on Medicaid. These barriers are compounded when politicians place additional obstacles to essential and lifesaving health care.
We will never back down and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need.Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards
Texas’ Bogus Basis for Blocking Care
A year ago, the state originally tried to block Medicaid patients’ access to care at Planned Parenthood, basing their action on false claims from anti-abortion extremists in heavily edited and thoroughly discredited videos. Planned Parenthood never has and never would sell fetal tissue for profit. In fact, a grand jury in Texas cleared Planned Parenthood and indicted members of the group behind the videos (the Center for Medical Progress).
Despite that — and despite the fact that Planned Parenthood has been already cleared by 13 state investigations and an additional eight states declined to even investigate — the state of Texas is once again recycling these false accusations as the basis for today’s actions.
Similar Policies Have Already Devastated Women’s Health in Texas
We have seen the devastation caused to Texans when the state blocks access to care at Planned Parenthood. In 2011, nearly 30,000 fewer women got birth control, cancer screenings, and other care after Texas blocked them from Planned Parenthood.
The tragic consequences for Texans when politicians block access to care include:
Nearly 30,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screenings, and other care from the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) after the state barred care at Planned Parenthood in 2011, according to a report by Texas' health department. The Dallas Morning News reported that “the areas with the highest drops in the number of women served by the WHP occurred in areas where Planned Parenthood clinics shuttered.”
The state’s family planning program served 54 percent fewer patients as a result of the 2011 budget cuts and funding scheme that blocked access to care at Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
There was a 35% decline in women in publicly funded programs using the most effective methods of birth control and a dramatic 27% increase in births among women who had previously had access to injectable contraception through those programs, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More than half of Texas women reported at least one barrier to reproductive health care. Spanish-speaking women from Mexico were more likely to report three or more barriers.
In just one East Texas county, where the local health center lost 60 percent of its family planning funding, the number of abortions increased by 191 percent in two years. It’s obvious women who did not want to be pregnant didn’t have access to the care they needed to prevent pregnancy.
A new study from the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas has nearly doubled since 2010 – coinciding with stringent funding cuts for women’s health care and defunding Planned Parenthood. Black women accounted for nearly 29 percent of all maternal deaths, even though they gave birth to only 11 percent of all babies.
After Texas removed Planned Parenthood from its HIV Program in December 2015, the Texas Observer reported that, as of June 2016, Harris County’s health department (the alternative provider) was yet to perform a single HIV test. Texas took the nearly 30-year-old HIV prevention contract away from Planned Parenthood in December, promising there’d be no gap in services.
Already, tens of thousands of Texans have nowhere to turn for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV tests, and other care. The maternal mortality rate continues to rise. But blocking care at Planned Parenthood it’s just dangerous — it’s also deeply unpopular: 15 national polls have shown strong support for Planned Parenthood and extraordinarily strong opposition to policies targeting access to care at Planned Parenthood’s health centers. Yet Greg Abbott is hell-bent on chasing this ideological agenda, regardless of how many women it hurts.
A Cautionary Tale for Politicians Out to “Defund” Planned Parenthood
Texas’ decision comes as extreme politicians in the U.S. Congress want to “defund” and shut down Planned Parenthood nationwide, which would deny millions of people across the country access to the cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing and treatment (including HIV testing) that they rely on.
Because of its past harmful policies on women’s health, Texas is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation. If the nation goes the way of Texas, it will be nothing less than a national health care disaster.