March 1, 2012
It seems that while the Obama administration can’t mess with Texas, Texas can mess with Texas—Texan women, that is. On Feb. 23, the Texas Health and Human Services commissioner signed into law a rule that formally bans Planned Parenthood clinics and its affiliate abortion providers from participating in the Texas Women’s Health Program, a Medicaid funded program that provides low-income women with family planning exams, related health screenings, and birth control through Texas Medicaid. While this does not amount to a full closing down of Planned Parenthood services, it does endanger the entire Texas Women’s Health Program.
The Obama administration has stated that the ruling violates the federal Social Security Act and, should it go into effect, will revoke federal funding from the state-federal Medicaid program that supports the Texas Women’s Health Program. The law is set to take effect on March 14, and unless the state and the Obama administration come to some sort of compromise, the Texas Women’s Health Program could be dismantled. If the administration follows through with its threat, it could be devastating for the more than 100,000 women who receive medical care through the Texas Women’s Health Program.
But the ensuing fight over the ruling has not been about this vital program and the potential termination it faces. It has been about Texas. “The Obama administration is trying to force Texas to violate our own state laws or they will end a program that provides preventative health care to more than 100,000 Texas women,” Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry said in the Texas Tribune. “This boils down to the rule of law—which the state of Texas respects and the Obama administration does not.”
Reponses to the ruling have devolved into a back-and-forth between Planned Parenthood, the Texas legislature, and Republican and Democratic organizations in Texas, with each side arguing that the other seeks only political advancement with no regard for the women it will hurt. Kyleen Wright, president of the Texans for Life coalition, has said that if Planned Parenthood actually cared about health care for women, it would “get out of the way so that the [Texas Women’s Health Program] could continue.” Texas Democrats accused the Republican state government of throwing “the most vulnerable Texans under the bus to pick a fight with the federal government.” The Planned Parenthood Action Center has initiated a petition addressed to Texas governor Rick Perry in response to ruling, with the slogan, “Don’t Mess with Texas Women.”
This ruling has shown that it is politics, not public interest, fueling policymaking today. This is a blatant, political attack on Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. Clinics receiving taxpayer money for women’s health services can only provide abortions with outside funds, and so state funds are not used for abortions regardless. That the Texas government would risk the health of the state’s women to make some sort of twisted statement is outright ridiculous, as is the notion that Planned Parenthood should “get out of the way.” Women’s health is too high a price to pay for political games.
Anisha Suterwala is a contributing writer for Broad Recognition.