While oodles of trend-setters party in Austin at this week’s SXSW music and tech festival, hundreds of thousands of women living in Texas are losing their health care services, thanks to a decision by the federal government that even conservative governor Rick Perry says is over the line. Of course, it’s not a random, anti-woman decision–it’s a very costly lesson to states, like Texas, that try pick and choose which women’s health services get covered. Which Perry has already seen to.
In an announcement on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (famous most recently for her decision to keep Plan B out of the hands of teenagers) stated that funding for a Texas program, which provides Medicaid waivers for women who don’t qualify for actual Medicaid (and which provides more than 100,000 low- or no-income women with basic women’s health services, including birth control) would lose all federal funding, which currently covers about 90% of the $40 million it takes to run the program. Because, according to a state law that Texas has already enacted, the funding it’s been receiving isn’t legal. Here’s what Perry’s site for the Texas Women’s Health Care Program website states as the reason:
The Obama Administration, however, has indicated it will not approve the waiver application as long as Texas complies with state law by excluding abortion providers and their affiliates, like Planned Parenthood, as qualified providers. This is despite the fact Planned Parenthood represents less that 2 percent of enrolled providers statewide.
Ah, there’s the rub. Some of the Medicaid waivers were being used at providers who also offer abortion services–though never with federal funding. So the law, which keeps public money out of the hands of abortion-affiliated clinics like Planned Parenthood, disqualifies Texas from receiving the necessary funds. Funds which could be used at a Planned Parenthood under federal law, or could be used at any other affiliate clinic, which provides the exact same services. Because, remember, no federal assistance is ever given to abortion services. But because Perry has already waged war on Planned Parenthood, the entire program is losing out.
Which means that the funding, which provides about 130,000 women in Texas with exams and birth control, is being yanked basically to teach Texas a lesson for its earlier decision to defund Planned Parenthood–a decision which forced the closures of 11 Planned Parenthood branches in the state, and left many women without non-abortion-based basic healthcare. The federal government isn’t pulling the plug because they hate women–they’re doing it because Rick Perry and the State of Texas have already made it clear that if women’s health care comes from Planned Parenthood, it’s not important. But they still want federal money. For all of the other women’s health care clinics. Which provide all of the same services.
Unfortunately, as a result of the scuffle between state and federal government, the women of Texas are left with nowhere else to go.
It’s a complex issue, and just one more blow to impoverished women who require annual exams (which always include a breast exam) and reproductive care to stay healthy/alive. But what’s interesting/saddening is that while hundreds of thousands of young people (who have been active in the fight for affordable access to health care) are pouring money into Austin’s economy at SXSW this week, there are hundreds of thousands of women who will be cut off from what is probably their only doctor visit all year. If you’re at the festival, consider donating a little to the women’s health care advocacy group or charity of your choice. If you’re paying sales tax while in Austin, you’re also paying to not pay for health care services.
It seems this time the federal government is cutting off its nose to spite its face, but the only people being hurt are poor women.