Undermining Planned Parenthood in Texas

Last year, Texas legislature attempted to pass a bill that would halt all funding for the Women’s Health Program, a Medicaid associated program that provides annual exams and contraception for all reproductive age women that qualify, simply because Planned Parenthood participated in the Women’s Health Program.  This puts programs such as where I work in a bind.   The funding is in serious jeopardy of being eliminated completely.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Women’s Health Program saves Texas at least $20 million a year.  By providing an annual exam, contraception, STD screening and cancer screening, patients also get their blood pressure checked, are screened for domestic violence and substance abuse and connected into a hospital system.

As a second year resident in my training in OB/GYN at one of the busiest county hospitals in the country, Parkland Hospital in Dallas, I’ve seen a lot.  Parkland is a massive safety net for north Texas, catering to women of all races, creeds, nationalities and ages.  Parkland Hospital takes care of over 10,000 pregnant women a year alone, at a cost much below the national average, yet manages to have excellent outcomes including one of the lowest pre-term birth rates in the country.

Parkland maximizes utilization of state programs that fund preventive care. The Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program allows uninsured women below a certain income level to qualify for annual well women exams and reproductive health maintenance.  Outlying clinics staffed by nurse practitioners provide these vital services.

Beginning last year, under financial and political pressure, Governor Rick Perry attempted to cut funding to the Women’s Health Program because the Women’s Health Program also funded Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood, although providing abortion services, focuses on “[helping people] make responsible choices about their sexual and reproductive health”.  The main focus of Planned Parenthood in fact parallels Parkland’s ideals of health care by promoting prevention through screening and education.  (Parkland does not perform abortions.)

The consequences spell disaster.  Already, with decreased funding to family planning clinics in the Parkland Health system, the number of patients crowding the Women’s Emergency Room at Parkland has steadily increased for both low and high acuity issues.  Compared to a low cost preventive visit to a family planning clinic, the cost of an ER visit charges a base of about $1500.  The state eats this bill, as patients cannot pay.  Without preventive care or contraception, the unplanned pregnancy rate will rise, placing increased burden on a breaking Medicaid system.

Regardless of individual opinions of abortion, taxes or politics, I hope we can all agree that having healthy women who get pregnant when they want to is an important goal.   How did we let a bunch of stuffy men in suits and really ugly sweater vests start to hack away at women’s rights that we have been fighting for the last 100 years?

I am pro-choice but not pro-abortion.  I would love for every pregnancy to be loved.  Abstinence is a great option, and should be taught, however people are not going to stop having sex.  Our evolutionary drive to reproduce is stronger than morals or politics.  If we as a country of parents, educators and health care providers could teach our children, students and patients about safe sex and provide them with mental and physical resources to make healthy decisions for themselves, then we would reduce the abortion rate.

We are eliminating a program that saves money, increases patient choice, reduces unwanted expensive pregnancies and reduces abortion.  Even though abortion only encompasses 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood, sadly the almost 100% of women will be affected that participate in the Women’s Health Program.  The results of undermining Planned Parenthood—Unplanned (and very expensive) Parenthood.

Elizabeth Breuer is an obstetrician-gynecologist who blogs at OB Cookie.

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  • Molly_Rn

    Sadly those who oppose abortion for any
    woman no matter the circumstances don’t know or don’t care that there have
    always been abortions since women could get pregnant. There is documentation of
    abortifacts for Egyptian women during the days of the pharaohs. Sadly those who
    oppose abortion for any woman no matter the circumstances don’t know or don’t
    care that there have always been abortions since women could get pregnant.
    There is documentation of using various things to cause an abortion for
    Egyptian women during the days of the pharaohs. Why it is sad is that without
    safe, legal abortions women will die. They backyard abortionists will be back
    and women will hemorrhage, become infected, become sterilized and die. I
    remember the bad old days pre-Roe vs. Wade at a hospital where I was a student
    nurse when nice married Catholic women came in bleeding uncontrollably from a
    backyard botched abortion. Now her husband could take care of their 4 kids by
    himself while working at a low income job to support them. Keep your religious
    beliefs off my body and all other women’s bodies. Don’t believe in abortions?
    Then don’t have one.

  • JannyPi

    Ma was a firm believer in PP and supported it her entire life. She felt that EVERY baby should be loved and wanted. She was in nursing school in Philadelphia in the 1930′s and interned at a hospital in one of the poorer sections of the city. Mothers had to pay their hospital bill BEFORE the hospital would release the baby. There were many unclaimed babies and it broke Mom’s heart.
    Planned Parenthood was there for me when I was 17-18 and becoming sexually active (1970′s). Their main purpose was to educate women, and they still are doing the same phenomenal job they did back then. Women need to know their own bodies and make their own responsible, educated decisions.
    I’d much rather see Planned Parenthood in a school then ROTC, just saying.

  • BobH_MD

    It was with great enthusiasm that I started to read this
    post. Whether one supports abortion or
    not, it is very difficult for anyone to refute the importance of those women’s
    health issues that are not related to abortion.
    However, at the completion of the first sentence, my stomach sank and
    enthusiasm turned to dismay as I realized that this was likely to be another
    post full of mistruths, deception and personal agendas. And, indeed, that is what ensued. As a physician, and a Texan, I could not sit
    by without commenting and presenting the reading audience with the FACTS.

    Last year the Texas legislature DID NOT try to cut ALL
    funding to the Women’s Health Program.
    In fact, the legislature, asserting its rights under federal law, passed
    legislation that would eliminate funding under the program only to women’s
    health providers that performed abortions (thus Planned Parenthood). The budget for the Women’s Health Program
    would remain intact, clinics that did not perform abortions would see no change
    in funding, and additional clinics would be built to provide valuable
    services. Women would have absolutely
    been able to receive the services they needed, just not through providers that
    performed abortions.

    The Women’s Health Program is 90% federally funded with the
    remainder coming from the State of Texas.
    An appeals court upheld Texas’s rights, under federal law, to choose the
    providers of services for state managed plans, such as the Women’s Health
    Program. Unfortunately, the Obama
    administration threatened to eliminate its 90% funding of the program if Texas
    refused to fund Planned Parenthood. This
    is precisely what has happened.

    The federal government chose to use women as pawns in a
    battle over abortion rights. With
    blatant disregard for state’s rights, it has significantly reduced the funding
    for Texas to distribute funds under the Women’s Health Program. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of Health and
    Human Services announced these plans on March 9, 2012. Governor Perry has pledged to find the
    balance of the funds elsewhere in the budget.
    Until that happens, if it can, the women of Texas will suffer at the
    hands of the federal government.

    Regarding Planned Parenthood services, abortion indeed
    counts as only 3% of the services it provides.
    However, merely stating this statistic in this way vastly understates
    the extent to which abortion permeates the organization. Multiple services are performed on individual
    patients. According to Planned
    Parenthood’s own published figures, in 2010 it performed 329,445
    abortions. It also stated that during
    that time, Planned Parenthood saw nearly 3 million people (i.e. somewhat less
    than 3 million). That means that an
    abortion was performed on roughly 11% of its patients, nearly 4 times the
    diluted 3% number they would like people to associate with their organization.

    The author also blames the reduction in non-abortive health
    services for women on stuffy men in suits and really ugly sweater vests. Is this to imply that women would have never
    participated in such decisions, or made better decisions? Surely there are women in the Texas state
    legislature. Surely Kathleen Sebelius is
    a woman. Barack Obama is rarely
    considered “stuffy”. Is the author
    making a graphic point that government is increasingly intrusive in our
    lives? We can be the only ones to
    blame. We elect the “stuffy suits”, and
    then re-elect them.

    Planned Parenthood and other abortion services providers
    will continue to exist and women will have access to these services. In states like Texas, and the several other
    following suits, these providers will have to find alternative ways of funding
    themselves, including potentially becoming self-sufficient. These states have specific legislation
    preventing taxpayer dollars from being distributed to abortion providers. States have a clear right to determine how to
    spend their taxpayer dollars and how to spend federal taxpayer dollars for
    state managed programs. The discussion
    that should ensue from this post is whether or not states have the right to
    determine how to spend taxpayer funds.
    This is not about women’s rights to abortions in any way. It is also not about providing non-abortive
    healthcare services to women, or at least it wasn’t until political games took their toll.

  • John C. Key MD

    I sure get tired of people pretending that Planned Parenthood is a serious healthcare organization. It is not, and that is why we in Texas do not support its “work”.

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