If you want to see the result of Republican leadership's devastating attacks on women's health, look no farther away than Texas. This timeline reveals how low the Texas legislature has sunk in just the past five years, and how hard we need to fight to win back reproductive health care access for Texans.
2011: Texas Slashes Family Planning by Two-Thirds
The first big blow to Texans’ reproductive health in the past few years was when Gov. Rick Perry approved massive funding cuts to women’s health programs. In September 2011, Texas slashed funding for the state's family planning program by a whopping two-thirds. The legislature also started a tiered funding scheme that essentially blocked family planning providers like Planned Parenthood from the small amount of funding that remained. The consequences of these budget cuts, two years later:
Forcing 76 of the women’s health centers in Texas to shut their doors or stop providing family planning services, and another 55 providers to reduce their hours;
Serving 54% fewer patients through the state’s family planning program; and
Cutting off 155,000 women from access to preventive care that health centers like Planned Parenthood provide, including lifesaving cancer screenings, affordable birth control, and well-woman visits;
2012: Texas Walks Away from $40M in Federal Funds to Exclude Planned Parenthood
To circumvent federal law preventing Texas from denying women access to qualified providers like Planned Parenthood, state lawmakers in January 2012 dismantled the Medicaid Women's Health Program. In doing so, they rejected about $40 million in federal matching funds, which covered 90% of the program's cost.
In place of the federal Women’s Health Program, lawmakers decided to launch a fully state-funded program — which excludes Planned Parenthood health centers (which, incidentally, had served 40% of the women in the federal program). By 2013, the impact of this decision became clear: nearly 30,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests, and other care through the program.
2013: The Fight over HB2
The summer of 2013 saw a big fight to stop an extreme and dangerous anti-women’s health law (HB2), a controversial package of bills that severely restrict access to abortion. Governor Rick Perry and his cronies rammed the bills through the legislature after two special sessions, a citizens filibuster, and a Texas-sized standoff. They did it despite Wendy Davis’ renowned 11-hour marathon filibuster... and despite the fact that thousands of Texans across the state rose up to oppose it. This law is now being challenged in the courts and could go before the Supreme Court next year.
2014: Restrictions Temporarily Go into Effect, with Devastating Impact
Within hours of the HB2 restrictions taking effect in October 2014 (and before the Supreme Court stepped in to temporarily block the restrictions), Planned Parenthood witnessed the catastrophic impact on women across Texas:
Women lined up outside health center doors, waiting to see if they could still access the care they needed at the Planned Parenthood health centers that remained open.
Health centers were inundated with calls from frightened and upset patients, and Planned Parenthood health centers in metropolitan areas also reported that their call volumes from patients seeking abortion services increased exponentially. Many of these calls were from women living far outside the health centers’ service regions where closer providers closed.
A call center director for Planned Parenthood in Houston shared a heartbreaking account of a woman who traveled from out of state and stayed in Houston overnight, only to find that she couldn’t obtain a procedure.
June 2015: Kicking Planned Parenthood Patients out of Lifesaving Cancer Program
This past June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott passed a budget that bans Planned Parenthood from the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer (BCC) Services program, which provides vital cancer screenings to low-income and uninsured women. Abbott made this move despite the fact that in some Texas communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of BCC services — and despite receiving nearly 20,000 petition signatures from Texans all across the state. Sadie Hernandez, a 20 year old Brownsville native, delivered those petitions and stood vigil for three weeks outside the governor’s mansion in opposition to the ban.
Texas Today: More Targeted Attacks
Health centers in Texas are now struggling to meet increased demand for safe, legal abortion following that wave of closures after the passage of abortion restrictions in 2013. Harsh, medically unnecessary restrictions are forcing abortion later in pregnancy, if a woman can access a procedure at all.
And yet, the attacks on reproductive health in Texas have not subsided. Just this month, the state announced it would terminate Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contracts. Days later, Texas officials armed with subpoenas showed up unannounced at Planned Parenthood health centers in Brownsville, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio demanding administrative records. It seems that, after the fact, the state raided Planned Parenthood’s health centers looking for an excuse to justify its politically motivated moves against Planned Parenthood.
What’s Next for Texas?
If the Supreme Court allows all of Texas’ 2013 restrictions to go into full effect, the consequences for women would be devastating:
Women’s access to safe, legal abortion in the state of Texas would be decimated. The 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas will be left with only 10 health centers that provide safe, legal abortion in the entire state — down from approximately 40 health centers before passage of this dangerous law.
Given reduced access to safe, legal abortion, the number of safe, legal abortions in the second trimester could nearly double in Texas. While abortion is an extremely safe procedure, it is safest earlier in pregnancy.
If the Supreme Court allows these sham laws to stand, that wouldn’t just be the fate of women in Texas — it could be the fate of women across America.
Here’s what you can count on: While politicians work to create a Texas where women have nowhere to turn for safe, legal abortion or basic reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood isn’t going anywhere.
Take it from Planned Parenthood Federation of America Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens:
“It’s clear politicians think they can bully us out of caring for Texans in need. Planned Parenthood will not be intimidated, and you cannot close our doors.”