Friday, March 23, 2012
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Governor Rick Perry and the Texas GOP continue their war on Planned Parenthood and health care for poor Texas women.
Below: A blog post from today's Chron.com
Patricia Kilday Hart, Chron.com blog, 3, 23 2012
Last week, Gov. Rick Perry employed texts, Twitter and his official website to condemn what he called the Obama administration's "plans to cancel funding for a long-standing and cost-effective health and wellness program for more than 100,000 Texas women."
Perry further warned that "this move will cut off access to screenings for breast and cervical cancer, hypertension and diabetes, STD testing and family planning services for Texas women who otherwise could not afford them."
Our governor's defense of the Texas Medicaid Women's Health Program was a ringing endorsement of "cost-effective" government-sponsored contraception. And it was about 10 months too late.
Last spring, I watched with dismay as the Texas House, led by Republican lawmakers, slashed - from $111 million to only $38 million - the only other program providing contraception for poor Texas women, administered by the Department of State Health Services.
Perry stood by silently as GOP lawmakers took the ax to the program, despite budget analysts reporting that the program would save the state millions of dollars by preventing unwanted children who would be delivered into this world on Medicaid's dime.
As I pointed out in a column last spring, Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, touted "research" that he claimed proved that contraception leads to abortion.
Citing a 2002 study by the Guttmacher Institutute, Weber told the Texas House, "It actually shows that the highest abortion rate is among women actively using contraception and … among the poor."
Rep Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio, was the only person who questioned this outlandish claim. "You think contraception doesn't work?" he asked Weber.
"Not for those that get pregnant," Weber replied, inciting raucous laughter.
But the joke is on Texas taxpayers: Weber's assessment of the Guttmacher study was wildly inaccurate. It proved just the opposite: Women who got abortions didn't use contraceptives, or used them only sporadically.
Guttmacher also had more current research estimating that government programs paying for contraception prevent almost 2 million unintended pregnancies each year. "Without these services, the number of unintended pregnancies and abortion among poor women in the United States would nearly double," the institute found.
Weber wasn't alone in his ignorance on the subject of contraception. In one committee meeting, Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker, fumed that the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board was using "government math" in calculating the savings produced by contraception programs.
"We're going to save on the non-babies that are being born? We're going to prevent baby births?" said Laubenberg, incredulously. "This has got to be government math, …basing it (the estimated savings) on the speculation that you're going to save money by non-babies, by non-Medicaid baby births."
No real Perry epiphany
A patient health department staff person tried to explain it to her: "The more women we get in the program, the more births we avert."
"You speculate that," Laubenberg said.
"We measure that," the staff member replied.
Perry hasn't really had an epiphany that contraception for the poor is a worthwhile, even "cost-effective," program. He's warring with President Barack Obama because the federal government won't go along with his administration's attempt to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in the program.
"Why would the Obama Administration take away access to health care for low-income Texas women?" Perry asks on his website. "Because this administration puts funding for abortion providers and affiliates ahead of funding for women's cancer screenings and other preventative health care."
He conveniently fails to mention that no money that goes to Planned Parenthood can be used to provide abortions. It's already illegal.
Policy costly for Texas
The money pays only for cancer screenings and contraception that poor women need. But Perry, the governor who is against the government picking your health care provider, has decided he gets to pick the health care provider for poor women.
Now, however, Perry wants to cast himself as the savior for women's health, offering to "find the money" in the state budget to continue the Women's Health Program, without having to follow long-established rules allowing equal participation among health care providers. Here's what Perry's illogical war on Planned Parenthood costs Texas: a $9 federal match for every $1 the state spends.
As Villareal noted late last week, "The idea that Texas Republicans have supported the Women's Health Program is laughable. It has no connection to reality. Anyone who paid attention to the last legislative session knows that Texas Republicans consistently demonstrated their hostility towards the Women's Health Program and other family planning programs."
Where was Rick Perry's outrage then?